Archives: 4 Advent

Mary’s Questions

Anyone in Mary’s shoes at the Annunciation would have some questions. But we learn a lot about Mary and her rare spiritual depth by what she doesn’t ask.

Mary asks, “How?”

But Mary does not ask, “What?” or “Why?” or “When?”

After greeting Mary, who unsurprisingly is rendered “much perplexed” by an angel showing up out of nowhere, Gabriel gives a little speech.

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

I don’t know about you, but the first question out of my mouth would be, “What?” Or more, like, “WHAT?!?!”

“What?” in the sense of, “I understand that you’re speaking English (or Hebrew) but what you’re saying is so crazy that I’m really not following you right now,” and “What?” in the sense of, “What hallucination am I having right now?”

Even, “What?” in the sense of “What does all this mean and what are you talking about?”

But not Mary. Continue reading

Joseph: An Unstable Righteousness

The time is coming very shortly, just a few days away, in fact, when our total attention will be focused on the Blessed Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus, the Messiah.

That attention is wholly appropriate to Christmas Eve and is the triumphant endpoint of our entire Advent preparation.

But there is one person who seems to fade into the background on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and that’s Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father.

In fact, fading into the background seems entirely in his nature. He seems like a behind-the-scenes type of guy.

We all know them—these people who are the salt-of-the-earth, hard-working, faithful souls whose quiet devotion to the simple, humble things that have to be done keeps the church and the family going.

That’s Joseph.

But today in our gospel story he is dragged out into the limelight, and if we spend a little time with Joseph, we see that he is a man of profound spiritual depth, someone from whom we can learn a lot.

We read today that Joseph was a righteous man.

When he finds out that Mary is pregnant and he knows the child is not his because they are engaged but not married yet, he would have been well within his rights to call her out publicly.

After the child was born, she could have been executed by stoning. Continue reading

The Song of Soul Friends

What are you like when you’re in love?

Have you ever been in love? Especially that first flush of new love?

Everything is beautiful all around you.

You can’t stop thinking about that special someone.

Everything reminds you of him or her.

When you’re with that person, time seems to stop. You can’t imagine how you lived before you met him or her.

You know what else you do when you’re in love?

You sing.

You sing all the time.

You sing in the shower, you sing while you’re driving, you sing while you’re cooking.

You sing about your loved one, you sing to your loved one, every love song on the radio is about you and your relationship.

That’s usually how you learn someone is in love in a musical or an opera, too. They burst into radiant song and you know—they have fallen, and they have fallen hard.

But what happens when your love is not returned?

Have you ever experienced unrequited love?

Oh, it hurts.

Whenever you’re in a room with that person, no matter how crowded, you’re constantly aware of where he or she is.

You replay every conversation you’ve ever had, straining it for deeper meaning than is really there.

If you’re technologically minded, you might do a bit of light Facebook stalking, hoping that they’re happy and in love with someone, no matter how sad you are that you’re not that person. Continue reading

Ready or Not, Here He Comes

Well, folks, we’re out of time.

Christmas is a short three days away, and there is a rapidly closing window of time to accomplish whatever preparation you knew you had to take care of before December 24.

And I’m not just talking about the kind of preparation that immediately springs to mind.

I’m not just talking about the online last-minutes gift deals and the frantic rushing out for another roll of wrapping paper.

I’m not just talking about the dog eating the chocolate that was supposed to go in the stockings and the frantic rush to Kroger at 10 a.m. on December 24 to buy onion salt, cranberry sauce, a meat thermometer, and all the other once-a-year kitchen items you forgot to get to prepare food for your guests.

I’m letting you know that the window is also closing on the last opportunity for our spiritual preparation, which by the way is the original purpose of this entire holiday season.

We can be forgiven for perhaps forgetting from time to time—after all, the reminders to remember the “true spirit of Christmas” have become as trite as the twinkling lights and blaring songs about Rudolph and Frosty.

But today is our last Sabbath before Christmas. It’s time to pause, stop, and reflect on where we have been.

How did we arrive at the moment three days before our Savior’s birth?

What has been happening to you spiritually for the past four weeks?

What have you been doing to prepare a place to welcome the Christ Child within your life, your self, your mind, your heart?

How have you seen God at work in your life, leading you and guiding you toward the star in the East that grows stronger and brighter with each passing day? Continue reading

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Moral Imperative

The time is coming very shortly, just two days away, in fact, when our total attention will be focused on the Blessed Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus, the Messiah. That attention is wholly appropriate to Christmas Eve and is the triumphant endpoint of our entire Advent preparation.

But there is one person who seems to fade into the background on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and that’s Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father.

In fact, fading into the background seems entirely in his nature. He seems like a behind-the-scenes type of guy.

We all know them—these people who are the salt-of-the-earth, hard-working, faithful souls whose quiet devotion to the simple, humble things that have to be done keeps the church and the family going.

That’s Joseph.

But there’s more to the story. Continue reading