At the end of this passage, Joseph suddenly seems brave, awaking with resolution. Matthew describes Joseph as righteous and obedient, but we may add afraid. His fiancée, with whom he intended to start a family, is already with child. This will bring social disgrace, even from family and friends, but Joseph plans to avoid this with a quiet separation until his visionary dream. The angel is successful in changing Joseph’s mind, confirming Mary’s proclamation that God is up to something with her pregnancy. However, I am sure it is with shaky knees that he wakes and stands in acceptance of the path before him and the danger and disgrace it includes. With a crack in his voice, and perhaps love flooding back into his heart, he apologizes and tells Mary that he believes her: they are going to raise the one named “Emmanuel,” God with us.
God is up to things in our world that seem scary and disgraceful. Bringing healing and wholeness into a broken world will lead to difficult situations that seem disgraceful to systems of brokenness and violence. Moments we see pregnant with the divine will look only like poor choices in a world built with systems of exclusion and injustice. However, God is with us in these things. God is with us in the disgrace of volunteering on a holiday, giving away free meals while others feast in excess. God is with us in the disgrace of confronting bullying and hateful language, even when we feel like we’re starting more trouble than helping anything. God is with us in the disgrace of learning to rest in a world bent on working, choosing presence to others over productivity and income. As we celebrate Advent this year, may we celebrate that even in our fear and amidst public disgrace, God is with us.
God who is with us,
Give us the hope and boldness of Mary,
who chose to continue in a dangerous and disgraceful situation
knowing that it would bring about something that world-changing.
Give us the righteousness and willingness of Joseph,
who changed his mind about something that seemed absurd,
saying “yes” to his wife who was pregnant with the divine,
and “no” to the fragile honors awarded by the world.
Let us say “yes” to you, oh God,
even if it leads to discomfort or disgrace,
following Jesus, whose birth took place in such a way.