Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Messiness of Life

I suppose you've noticed how messy our lives are. In fact, if you're like me, you've probably even complained about how life hasn't been fair to you.

Have you ever considered how Joseph must have felt when he found out Mary was pregnant? Then he had a dream and an angel spoke to him. Then there's the census Caesar required which meant a trip by foot with Mary about to deliver a baby. And then they can't find accommodations in Bethlehem. So it's the stable or nothing for Joseph and his new family. And then there's the shepherds and later the wise men from the East. And then, another dream and another angel and another trip that takes them even further away from their home and families. When they finally get the all clear message from another angel they find they still can't go home because Herod's son's in power and he's every bit as bad as his Dad. So, they're detoured to Nazareth. Besides all that happened to them there's all those babies who were ordered killed by Herod. Life sure is messy.

Have you also noticed how Joseph behaved through all this messiness? We don't read anywhere that he questioned God's messengers or say, “No, I'm not going there.” Not once do we hear that Joseph balked at God's instructions. It makes me wonder how we would have responded in the same situations.

Maybe the gospel writers were being easy on Joseph. Or maybe he was one of a kind and God knew that this was the perfect man to be the human father to his Son, Jesus. God probably knew that Joseph could deal with the messiness and the changes that were going to come into his life.

So, what do you think the Message God wants us to take from this gospel lesson? I think there's more here than the slaughter of the innocents. Jesus was saved but all those other little babies died. We know now that God was just waiting for a later time for Jesus to die, to be the sacrifice that would save the whole world. What other Message does God have for us here?

One thing I'm noticing is how God spoke to Joseph. He spoke to him in dreams through angels. The other thing is how Joseph reacted to these messages and the messengers.

I've kind of skimmed over these parts up 'til now. It makes me wonder how many times God may have spoken to me in a dream and I missed it. Or I listened, in my dream, but when I woke up the devil chased it out of my memory. But maybe God doesn't speak to you, or me, in dreams or with angels. Has he spoken to us and we haven't heard or listened or paid any attention? Or maybe we heard and we just rejected the Message. We didn't like what we heard and so we chose to disobey God. Hmmm.

God chose Joseph because he was just as God had created him. He was meant to be the father to Jesus. God knew how he'd respond to all the messiness that surrounded him. Not that Joseph couldn't have thrown a wrench into the works but he didn't and I believe that's all because it was part of God's intricate plan for the world. Now don't get me wrong. Joseph wasn't a puppet. He had to make many choices. But because of how God knit him together in his mother's womb he made the decisions that needed to be made that kept God's Son safe until his appointed time.

I wonder, though, if Joseph ever had any questions for God about some of these trips He sent him on. It sure was an awful lot of walking. And he probably didn't have all of his tools with him when he had to go off to Egypt. I mean it's not easy being the breadwinner for the family when the economy's in such turmoil. Do you think Joseph was ever worried? I think he had to be but, you see, he trusted God, and so did Mary. That had to help immensely.

So how do we respond when God asks us to do something that we think is way out there? I think we can learn from Joseph. Maybe Joseph can help us learn to trust our God more and be willing to take a risk just because it's God who's doing the asking. Maybe, after hearing this story again, we will be more attuned to God's voice as he speaks to us.

Friends, God speaks to us in many ways, even when things are messy and chaotic. I pray that you will now take some time every day to sit alone with God and listen as he speaks to you. I pray that you will listen to that voice that's in your mind as your go about your work. It just might be one of God's messengers with a special delivery for you. May God give you the courage and the strength to respond to his direction even if it sounds a little messy. Trust in God. He knows what he's doing because he is the Master Planner for the whole universe.

Thanks be to God for the wonderful grace-filled gift he gave the world. Amen.

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