Advent IV

Advent IV
2016 – Cycle A
Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24; Romans 1:1-17; Matthew 1:18-24

Joseph’s heart was racing in anticipation of the wedding.
The longing to be in the arms of the woman he loved.
A future filled with hopes and dreams.


Shattered.  All shattered in moments.
“I am pregnant with child.”


Truth becomes a knife thrust upward into the heart.
Betrayal drives out all love.
Spilt, the mingled blood of disbelief, denial, and disappointment.
Anger’s rising heat.
The silence of reluctant acceptance.

Men, young and old, youthful and mature, some single, others husbands, fathers…
I believe that men silently grieve over many shattered situations in life.
shattered-1Silence cloaks the disappointment and pain.
No one ever inquires among men.
Men, like their broad masculine frames, are expected to buttress other people.  Who helps them carry the burdens and disappointments of life? Men do not seem to be able to even do it for each other.

Like many men, Joseph is a solitary figure.
…a solitary figure who loves a woman, dreams of a future, hopes…
He quietly packs them in the box of his heart and tightly ties it up to put on a closet shelf; close the door and forget this chapter of his life.

Have you had such experiences of deep disappointment?
Futures shattered in a moment?
Unexpected, maybe unwarranted, rejection?

Maybe seven, eight years old.  I don’t remember.
I do remember telling dad that I did not want to go fishing with him, as we often had, at Lake Placid.  How far can a father’s face fall in the light of a son’s rejection?
Dad never asked me again.

Have you just wanted to quietly turn the page on a chapter of your life and sleeping
pass into the land of Nod and Dreams to forgetfully wake in a new place to start again?

I expect that is how Joseph felt.
So Joseph goes to sleep and dreams.

It is said that dreams are the forgotten language of God.  A language that often gives us direction in life.  Dreams suggest alternatives to our chosen route.  When life seems closed off, dreams pose new, unexpected avenues and pathways toward wholeness and God.

Consider the patriarch Joseph’s stairway to heaven dream. A bit Led Zeppelinish or George Gershwiny depending on your musical tastes [Genesis 28:10-15].  Peter’s Carnival of the Animals dream in the sky [Acts 10:9-16].  The magi’s divine GPS dream of directions on how to return home [Matthew 2:12].  The disturbing dream of the wife of Pontius Pilate in the face of an even more disturbing trial [Matthew 27:19].

Some dreams need interpreters like the young prophet Daniel.  Not all dreams are pleasant experiences as witnessed by the wife of Pilate or the King of the Chaldeans [Daniel 2:1ff].  At one’s own stubborn peril, not all of God’s directions, alternatives, sign posts, dreams have been given credence and followed.

Joseph has made a decision and sees no alternatives for the pain in his heart.  But God has other ideas.  God wants Joseph, instead of closing his pain – filled heart to open it wider like the splitting of the Red Sea to an unexpected future.  Joseph, Mary and the as yet unborn child’s future pivot on one phrase: “Such was his intention to divorce Mary quietly when… in a dream…”  

How often do our lives pivot in a moment on one set of assumptions…when…?

We are diagnosed with a serious illness or disease.
We lose a job.  That period aimlessly seeking for a new position.
We suffer a rejection…of some kind.
An unexpected death…an expected death.
A betrayal…great or small.
We find ourselves lost during the recovery period from an illness or surgery
which removes us from our normal routine of activity and people.
A divorce.  The distancing and loss of a friend.
The pulling away from our tight grip on a relationship.  The emptiness of the hand…

In all these situations, life is shattered.  Do we move on, get over it, and find closure as our culture tells us we should (and do so pretty quickly) or do we embrace the brokenness of the pieces and in some unexpected, unforeseen manner find what we are really looking for in life.

  • Where might God be present in the death of a loved one that we have avoided grieving over by filling up are days with activity rather than entering the solitude of emptiness, void and need?
  • How, through a serious illness, are we being invited to spiritual maturity, to accept our neediness or mend fences of relationship?
  • Because the pain and disappointment over the loss of a relationship is so deep, are we blind to whom God is sending into our lives today?
  • Is it patience, contemplation or self-examination that we are invited to learn during a recovery period or might it be the humility to accept that we are not as important as we think we are?
  • In experiencing any form of rejection, what other pathway is being opened by God?
  • When my life’s hand is empty and bruised because I’ve held on so tight to a person, a situation, what healing is being offered to me?

Shattered life situations redirected.  Mary’s pregnancy forced Joseph to narrowly consider divorce.  A dream invites him to embrace what he has abandoned and there to discover the presence of God.  It had to be painful for Joseph as it is for many men.  As it was for dad to silently walk out of the kitchen alone.  As it is for women and all of us in our own experiences to embrace broken pieces or embark on unknown and fearful pathways with only Emmanuel, “God with us”, in our back pocket.

“When Joseph awoke he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary into his home.”   And you know the rest of the story: an embrace, a wedding, and dreams fulfilled from shattered pieces.


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1 Response to Advent IV

  1. msperti says:

    Great images! Carmel Ann Sperti, D.Min. Oneonta, NY

    “The way to love anything is to realize it might be lost. ”           – G. K. Chesterton

    “Two roads diverged in a wood and I — I took the one less traveled by — and that has made all the difference.”~ Robert Frost “Be not lax in celebrating! Be not lazy in the festive service of God; be ablaze with enthusiasm. Let us be an active, burning offering before the altar of God.” -Hildegard of Bingen


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