“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyedI have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,with no extraordinary power,reconstitute the world.”
― Adrienne Rich
Sometimes good news comes very well disguised. The angels of Luke’s gospel announce to the shepherds “good news of great joy to all people,” but the angel of Matthew’s story came to Joseph with the somewhat less delightful news that his fiancee, Mary, was pregnant. (Matthew 1:18-25) For Joseph, knowing that he wasn’t the father, this could hardly have registered as good news. Our retelling of the Christmas story rarely takes seriously how betrayed and confused Joseph must have felt. But if we put ourselves in his shoes for a moment, what would we have done? What did he fear? What did he risk? What did he doubt?
Matthew’s gospel sets the stage: things are a mess. A marriage is on the rocks before it even begins, corrupt and greedy politicians rule the day, innocent lives are threatened by the power games of the leaders. If any of this sounds familiar, sit with Joseph’s story this week and ask: When an opportunity (like Joseph’s invitation to be Jesus’ stepfather) feels like a total disaster, what goodness might actually be hiding within it? In spite of everything, Joseph chose hope. In spite of the evidence, Joseph chose to trust Mary and to love their child. Even with a visit from an angel, this couldn’t have been easy for him. It’s never easy for us, yet the world is held together by our courage to choose hope, our strength to be like Joseph and live into the world we want to see.
How do we take seriously the brokenness and pain of the world and yet hold on to hope that God is in it?
How do we choose the Advent promises of hope, love, peace, and joy?
Bonus: For another take on how Joseph might have felt, check out“Joseph, Better You than Me” by The Killers