By Joanne Gallardo, campus pastor
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV)
There is no stranger time in one’s life than junior high. In that tender period of early adolescence, we are more conscious of our image than ever before. This carries on into high school, and for some of us, until we’ve reached a certain level of maturity in young adulthood. Unfortunately, some of us don’t ever stop being self-conscious and/or worried about what others think.
Often with the story of Christ’s birth, we forget just how very young Mary and Joseph must have been. Barely into adolescence themselves, they were likely knee-deep in hormones, acne, awkward interactions and the struggle that comes with finding one’s place in the world. This may seem a bit anachronistic, but coming-of-age is difficult no matter the time or the place.
Joseph has a bit of a problem. His intended, Mary, is obviously pregnant and everyone knows that they’re not yet married. Scripture says that he did not want her to be disgraced, but I can’t help but wonder if he’s also worried, at least a little bit, about his own image. What would people say? What if he becomes unfaithful to the law and keeps Mary as his wife?
The work that God would have us do can take us out of our comfort zone. Living and acting differently than what is seen in the world around us can put us in opposition to culture, or as it has been deftly put, “the way things are done around here.” Sometimes we are put in positions where we are unfaithful to unjust laws. Sometimes we are called to “get over ourselves” in order to bring about the change that comes from Immanuel, God with us. Following Christ to the best of our ability can give us an “image problem.” That’s not always easy to swallow.
Joseph is able to put his fears about what is “right” and “necessary” aside in order to be wed to Mary. Together, they are tasked with parenting God incarnate. I don’t think it’s a minor thing for Joseph, a secondary character in the story of the Nativity, to have put aside culture and laws and inevitable shame to join in with what God was doing.
Joining God in what God is doing in the world can make us feel like adolescents again; unsure, scared, worried about what people will think of us, self-conscious and doubtful. Trusting in God’s leading is risky, and the outcome is uncertain. What we do know is that God is faithful, and that God will bring about a new thing. Can we allow ourselves that vulnerability and become open to the movement of the Spirit?
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV)
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, God is with us. 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.