December 20, 2010
The fourth candle in the Advent wreath is the candle of Love. It is the Joseph candle. For purposes of this study, it is the candle of Promise. A hard thing to do is to wait out the end result of a promise, even a promise made by God.
Fulfillment of any kind of a promise is predicated on the trust engendered in our hearts by that person who makes the promise. If it is a promise set forth by an unassailable source, that's one thing. If it is a promise made by one whose antecedents are questionable, we have room for doubt.
Joseph gets little attention in the story of the Nativity, but he is an important player in this drama. He is the linchpin male character, the Gary Cooper role, the one who moves the action forward on stage. He gets Mary to Bethlehem, he finds the place for her birthing, he stands stalwart beside her and defends her from all ill.
How great a love do we observe in this humble, blue-collar, godly man? Those who wish to see, are permitted to do so. Consider:
Genesis 17:15-22 (New International Version, ©2010)
15 God also said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her."
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?" 18 And Abraham said to God, "If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!"
19 Then God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[a] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year." 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.
We know that Abraham waited decades for the promise of God to be realized for him and Sarah, and can't you just imagine how hilarious their private moments were! Not to mention their times of tears as decades passed and Isaac, their promised one, failed to make his debut?
Yet centuries later Joseph and Mary waited faithfully as Mary's pregnancy passed through its weeks and months, finally culminating as, far away from both of their homes, she and her husband shared in the joy of Jesus' birth. Such love and trust they shared, and how he protected her as she faced the rigors of their journey to Bethlehem!
Night divine, when Christ is born! Thanks be to God. Thanks that we can celebrate together, what a divine gift to open together, in families made possible by God's amazing love. What a promise!
1 Samuel 2:1-10