Not ready for Christmas? Consider St. Joseph!

Joseph the carpenter from the movie, The Nativity Story

The gospel at Mass today is one of my favorites - I wish it got more "air play" on the liturgical calendar.  It's the wonderful story of Joseph's dream and an angel's message.  You'll find the scripture here: Matthew 1:18-24.    Here's my homily on this text from 2007. 

Are you ready for this?
Well, how many people in the last week or so have asked you,
“Are you ready for Christmas?”
In other words:
“Is your shopping done? your gifts wrapped? your cards mailed?
your cookies baked and your tree trimmed?”

2,000 years ago, when Christ was about to be born,
only a few individuals had any notion at all
of what was about to happen.
So I doubt that many people were asking St. Joseph
"Hey, Joe! Got your tree up yet?"

Although it’s altogether possible that Mary might have asked,
“Joseph… are you ready for this?”

Today’s gospel tell us that at least at one point,
Joseph was not ready for this.
Rather, he was ready to quietly break off his betrothal to Mary
- until he received a message from God,
through an angel, in a dream.
And the message was this: “Be not afraid…”

Be not afraid – of what?
Of taking Mary into his home as his wife? Yes, that.
Of caring for a child he knew he had not sired? Yes, that too.

But most of all, the angel in the dream was telling Joseph,
“Be not afraid of how the mystery of God
is weaving itself into your life,
into your relationship with Mary,
and into your whole future.

“Be not afraid, Joseph, of how the mystery of God
will touch your life, shape your life, turn your life around
and stand it on its head!"

None of us is asked to face what Joseph faced.
But all of us, like Joseph, face times in our lives
when God has allowed things to happen,
or has allowed things to fail to happen,
that would intimately touch, shape and turn our lives around
in ways we never dreamed would happen.
And sometimes in ways we wish had never happened.

And in all of this the word to us
is precisely the angel’s word to Joseph in his dream:
“Be not afraid because in everything, and in all things,
God Is With You: EMMANUEL.”

As it was for Joseph in his days,
so it is for us every Christmas.
Being “ready” for Christmas has little to do with
presents to buy and wrap, or trees to decorate,
or cards to write, or baking to do…

Being “ready” for Christmas
means renewing our faith and more than our faith, our trust,
in all the ways the mystery of God’s presence
is weaving itself into our lives:
touching and shaping and turning our lives around
in ways we may never have imagined.
And most of all, being “ready” for Christmas
means trusting that God is with us, Emmanuel,
in everything and in all things.

Here’s the Joseph figure from my mother’s nativity scene.

Take a moment, as you get “ready for Christmas,”
and ponder Joseph’s presence in your nativity
at home or here at Holy Family.

Imagine his doubts, his anticipation his anger…
his regrets, his concern for Mary, his fears…
his wonder, his confusion, his awe, …
Imagine him handing his troubles over to God
and trusting, putting his fears aside…
And imagine how Joseph might be a patron saint for us
as we get “ready” for Christmas…

The Child born in Bethlehem is still weaving his way into our lives.
The name Bethlehem means “House of Bread.”
And even this morning the Lord weaves the mystery of his presence
into our prayer at his table
and makes of our place of prayer the House of God’s Bread.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, God with us,
and weave the mystery of your presence,
the mystery of your love,
into our lives…


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