Watching the Sun set over the Mediterranean Sea was spellbinding. The glowing globe grew as it approached the horizon, and the thick atmosphere screened enough of the light so we could watch the Sun without being dazzled or blinded. Distant mountains were merged into the mist, vague shadows of deeper darkness.
Then, as the Sun kissed the mountain tops, wispy clouds were etched as dark shapes against the Sun. We could make out only the outline of the drama of the eternal cycle of Day and Night- and within minutes, the Sun had vanished, leaving only the embers of a perfect day.
Sometimes our faith-journey is a story of shapes against the sun. We can make out the highlights and the drama of key moments- but we have to move on, trusting that the play has a script that God has written, and that our part may be as a bystander or a witness.
As Advent moves toward the Christ-birth celebrations, one of the necessary characters is a man named Joseph, engaged to a young woman named Mary. Their future was tested when God intervened in a truly dramatic way. Joseph found himself confused and hurt, doubting the future he had planned, and trying to understand Mary’s tale of an angelic messenger promising a Saviour, a child to be the long-awaited Messiah.
Matthew’s Gospel records the events in a way that gives Joseph great credit for his compassion…
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew Ch. 1 v20-25)
Joseph could not know the future. The expected reaction of family and community was less than pleasant. Joseph could see only “shapes against the Sun” – but his willingness to submit his whole life to the message of a dream meant that the Son of Righteousness would arise- and the perfect purpose of God would be revealed.
Take a moment to consider all that- and then give thanks for Joseph and Mary, who lived in trusting faithful obedience.
Now, what shapes can YOU see against the sun? Is God inviting you to be part of the Kingdom purpose that declares Love to the world and its people? What response will we make when God is at work… but we don’t know all the plan… “Lord, I believe.”