Click here for YouTube Video.
This was our fourth and final Sunday in Advent. We shifted from a focus on the Second-Coming/end times to God breaking into our world, incarnated as the Christ-child. We often have the story of Gabriel visiting Mary, but in our Matthew text this week, we have the angel visiting Joseph.
Mary and Joseph lived in a time, in a place, in a culture that was based on shame. We don’t see this type of culture much, especially in the United States with the exception of the Amish community. If you bring shame or disgrace upon yourself, upon your family, upon your community you are excommunicated and all ties, all connections, all relationships to everyone and everything you’ve ever known ends. This was the society that Mary and Joseph was living.
Mary comes to Joseph and tells him “I’m pregnant by the Holy Spirit”. Joseph is thinking “what have you been doing? and with you? Your story is pretty unbelievable”.
Joseph is trying to figure out what to do. As a righteousness man, he doesn’t want to take the shame of a pregnant bride, especially one pregnant with someone else’s child, on to himself. Yet, he cares about Mary and wants to limit the amount of public ridicule she would receive. He decides that he will dismiss her quietly, but Mary and her illegitimate child would not be welcomed or permitted or accepted in their culture, within ‘polite society’.
An angel comes to Joseph and says “I know her story is pretty unbelievable, but take Mary to be your wife. Her child really was conceived by the Holy Spirit and will do great things! We need you to raise him up, to love him, to teach him, to father him, to give me legitimacy”.
Joseph listens and because of this we have the Holy Family: Mary, Joseph, and the Christ-child. It is depicted in our Christian art, in our Christian icons.
When I go to social events and people learn that I am a pastor, they have one of two reactions either (1) they stop speaking how they were, acting how they were, or drinking how they had been drinking OR (2) they share with me their hurts, their pains, the abuses they have experienced in the church. I was at a house-warming party this weekend. A woman shared with me about when her and her partner decided to get married, the partner’s father sent an email to the entire family speaking from his faith and from scriptures (how he understood them) that his daughter was going to burn in hell for her sexuality. Now she was struggling with how her partner’s father could say and do such things, yet he was acting on this notion of shame and disgrace being brought upon his family.
It made me wonder about God and how God creates family. Mary and Joseph and the Christ-child did not fit the conventional means of family in their time, and in their place, and in their culture. I wonder how often God takes us and makes us into families whether its same sex couples; or whether its families that have adopted; or families that have experienced divorce and then now there is a new family with “step” thrown into the mix; or those who are our friends and loved ones who are more family to us than our blood, our genetic families are.
I think God often makes these families, blesses them, and makes them holy whether or not they fit traditional or social convention.
We often talk about our church as a Church family.
We talk about our faith denominations as a faith family.
We talk about the “Christian” family.
But, I think God has called us to be part of a family that is much larger for God created the entire human family and I think we are called to be part of it.
My prayer is that we listen to this family more deeply; that we begin to see one another as mothers, and fathers, and sisters, and brothers of one family; and that we live further into it because God has blessed it and made it holy.
May we embrace the entire human, the entire created family as one. Amen.
Scripture was Matthew 1: 18-25.
Sermon was originally preached on 18 December 2016.