Monday, December 20, 2010
In the Still of the NIght
A few thoughts from today's scripture:
Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV)
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
(See also Luke 2.1—7)
18 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. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public
disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But 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. 21 She will bear a son,
and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place
to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the
Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she
had borne a son;j and he named him Jesus.
1. Verse 19: Joseph had a plan. He had reasoned it well in his mind, and it probably made sense. His plan even called out his most noble, generous nature to have Mary put away quietly when it would have been sufficient in his society to publicly handle the matter and save face himself. By all accounts, it was a good plan.
We, too, like a good plan.
2. Verse 20: Note: 'just when he had resolved to do this....an angel of the Lord appeared....' Sometimes we encounter situations that cause us to re-evaluate our plan. But, we also can be so committed to our agenda that we do not allow room for another voice to break through and call our action or plan into question.
We dismiss others' opinions that may challenge our course.
We justify our actions and rationalize our behavior and silence those who oppose us.
But Joseph heard the message of the messenger of God and changed course.
3. Verse 20 continues: The unusual message begins with words of comfort and assurance: Do not be afraid. Do we see how God offers these words whenever we encounter the Person or the message of God in Scripture? God already knows the tendency of humans to be in awe and frightened by such a communication, so there is always the accompanying message of 'do not fear'. Etch it in your hearts as I undertake to do as well; we need never fear a brush with the Holy. God is beginning even before we hear a message to meet our needs.
4. Verse 20: The message came to Joseph in a dream. This dream could have been while asleep at night or during an unusual experience any time of day. But I think of it as something that occurred during the night during sleep. During the night watch, as I like to think of it -- that time each day we go off duty, when we let our guard down, when we can rest in temporary peace if possible.
We may sleep, but God does not. Sometimes God does life-changing work in us and for us when we least expect it. God can change our plan and have us do a complete turn around after contemplating a matter with God's inspiration.
5. Verse 24: Joseph was obedient and ditched his plan. He certainly took the harder road when it would have been far easier to proceed with his own idea. Something in that nocturnal encounter was powerfully compelling!
Have your ever awakened from sleep to have a clearer picture of a situation, or possess understanding that had previously eluded you? These may be rare experiences for us, but they are possible and, I believe, to be expected when we seek God's inspiration at all times, not merely at designated hours of the day or limited to Sunday worship. Look to the night watch as a time of great possibility for spiritual growth. Ask the Lord to move in us and through us and for us, always acting to do His good pleasure in our lives for the Glory of God.