Thursday, December 17, 2015

How Poor a Manger am I?

Based on the readings for December 18th, Advent 2016
We have lost a sense in modern society of how important betrothal is.  In today's society we think of engagement as simply testing the waters.   What we call engagement in modern terms is what people a couple decades ago would have called courting/dating.  It's not uncommon to hear that so and so is engaged one week, and well it didn't work out the next.   It's almost as if for us engagement is just a promise of exclusivity on the way to marriage.  That's not what being betrothed to someone in Jesus time meant.  When you were betrothed, you were already married in essence.   It wasn't a test period.  It was just a period leading to the time when you would move in together.

For Mary to show up pregnant, well that was the same as committing adultery.  Notice Joseph is thinking of divorcing her!  Scripture indeed records him as being in his right to do so.  "Joseph being a righteous man, but not willing to expose her to shame, was going to divorce her quietly."  Righteous yet kind.  It was his right indeed to divorce her.  Here they are not living together yet, and she shows up pregnant.   How his heart must have heart.  It's a betrayal. Oh how it hurts to have someone you love go behind your back and betray you in this way.  How hard must her story have been for him to hear?  Oh, I haven't been with a man.. this angel appeared to me and said I'd have the child of God... What would you do in his shoes?

Then he had a dream from God.  An angel told him that it was all true, and it says when he awoke, he did as the angel had instructed and took 'his wife' into his home.   How hard that must have been?  God speaks to us all the time.   He has given us the Church.  The Church then gave us the scriptures.  He speaks to us through our priests and deacons in their homilies.   Through music.  Through others.  How much do we listen to him?  How easy it would have been for Joseph to justify himself in not believing it. We do it all the time don't we?   He could easily dismiss it as a dream.  But he's a righteous man, a kind man.  I imagine he wanted to believe it.  He didn't want Mary to be shamed, and possibly killed.   That's love isn't it?  To put your doubt behind you and trust.  

It's also one of the hardest things to do.  To forgive for one.   I am sure on some level he had to forgive Mary, thinking she had betrayed him.  That would be a hurtle of it's own... but another is to seek forgiveness.  Once he realized she was telling the truth.. once he realized that she had not betrayed him... Oh it is not her he needs to forgive, but her forgiveness he needs to seek.   Oh to get our own ego out of the way and say, I was wrong... I treated you wrong.. I am sorry... forgive me.   Why should we?  That's an easy question to ask.   I am still mad we might proclaim.  I still am not sure.. I still have doubts. 

Emmanuel.   God is with us.  The Prophet Jeremiah said the name would be LORD our Justice.  Our goal in life, the one that we reaffirm in Advent, the one that should stick out in our mind as we go through the octave of Christmas is this:  To become more like God every day, every second, every breath.  God is justice.  We too, must become like Him.  We must work for justice.  In our relationships.  In our societies.  In our families.  In every aspect of life.  Justice means to give someone what rightfully belongs to them.  When you say something untrue, when you hurt them by believing a falsehood, you are stealing their dignity.  They are made in the image of God.  God is truth.  When you tell a lie you cloud that image.   You try to cover it with something else, something not true.  Justice requires you to restore it.   Requires you to give them back what is rightly theirs... what is true.. what is kind and good. 

Are there any people in your life right now you owe an apology?  Is there someone in your past that you did wrong to?  Is there someone out there that you should have helped or should be helping and did not/aren't?  God is our spouse, we are the Church.  For just a moment think about that great mystery.   Is there anything keeping you from taking your spouse into your home?  Is there anything keeping you from letting God fully into your heart?  Maybe some teaching that someone misrepresented.   Some issue that you just don't quite want to believe, or haven't quite come to terms with.  Maybe some hurt in your past that you haven't gotten over... now is the time... to learn the truth.. and then, like the righteous and kind Saint Joseph... to take your spouse into your home.  Let God into your heart.  Come home. 

In a world where all the doors are closing.  Where hearts are so filled with so many distractions.  Where football, hockey, food, drink, parties, drugs, sex, and so many, many more are taking the place of God inside... realize that the Holy Family is moving from door to door looking for a place for Jesus to be born.  Are you preparing a manger for him?  Oh how meager a manger it would be indeed where he to choose to be born here, in this sinful heart of mine.  That's the grace of God though.. no matter how sinful we are, no matter how poor and meek a manger we might be.. He is looking to be born into you.  He is looking for an open door.  Is your door open?  Are you ready to receive Him?  It's time for us to work on our manger.. get it ready for the Lord.

His servant and yours,
Brian