Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Risks and Courage

It's Monday, the fourth week Advent, day 23.  It's now the final week and for a lot of people the presents have been bought, the arrangements made, the decorations are up and the cookies and desserts are being planned and made.  The lists are gradually being ticked off and one by one the countdown to Christmas has begun.

It's a magical week for most, but for some, it's a week of "what ifs"...  Let me share the passage from Scripture that made me "muse" on this theme for today.

Matthew 1:18-24
18  This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
19  Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20  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.
21  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."
22  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
23  "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us."
24  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

 I used the word Courage to describe Joseph.  He took a courageous risk.  Courage isn't the absence of's the presence of faith in the midst of the fears. 
Firemen are courageous
Police and ambulance emts are courageous
Doctors and Nurses making decisions around a bed are courageous
Soldiers in the field make life and death choices "courageously".
We don't define courageous as foolish, but rather as a decision to act when - many times - everything inside of you says "don't".  It's reasoned for certain, but its a reasoning that often cannot be explained.

Joseph is courageous.  Everything in normal life tells him that he needs to flee from Mary.  She has explained to him what has happened, but he cannot accept it...and he makes a rational, even merciful decision to divorce her quietly...let her go.  That is, until one night while he is sleeping.  An angel of the Lord visits him in his dreams and tells him "do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit."  Try to explain that to your family and friends.  If you thought Mary had a rough time, just think what Joseph had to go through. 

Yet Joseph acts courageously.  He takes a risk!  He steps out to say, "Yes" to God.  Yes to misunderstanding, to accusation, to humiliation and finger pointing.  Yes, I'll do it, represents RISK, COURAGE, OBEDIENCE to GOD above all other things.

It's Advent's last week...and everything is almost ready, isn't it?  Maybe...what strikes me in reading this is how relationships are always about risk, and courage.  Too many times we walk through life without a willingness to be courageous, take risks.  I know too many people who say they are Christians but don't want to belong to a church because they don't like the people!  I know too many couples who have decided to live together and avoid the commitment of marriage vows, because it's easier to control.  
It takes courage to take a risk.    
Tim Keller said it this way:  "The early church was strikingly different from the culture around it in this way - the pagan was stingy with its money and promiscuous with its body,  A pagan gave nobody their money and practically gave everybody their body.  And then Christians came along and they gave practically nobody their body and they gave practically everybody their money."

The Risk, the Courage to do in relationships the thing that most glorifies God and most brings about the redemption and reconciliation that our society desperately needs is still needed today.  Joseph said "Yes" to God...and he took Mary as his wife, and it has made all the eternal difference we can ever comprehend.


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