Homily for December 18

Dream of Joseph by Brian Whalen
Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
Scriptures for today's Mass 

Audio for homily

But we can dream can’t we?

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
just like the ones I used to know,
where the treetops glisten and children listen
to hear sleigh bells in the snow.
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
with every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright
and may all your Christmases be white.

Well, we might be dreaming of a white Christmas
but the gospel tells us clearly
that Joseph was having a very different kind of dream.
Joseph’s waking and sleeping hours found him
anxious, afraid, embarrassed, worried, disappointed and sad.

Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant and he knew it was not his child.
Her explanation was a story of an angel’s visit and  message
that she would conceive a child through the Holy Spirit.

I’m sure Joseph’s nights found him
anxious, afraid, embarrassed, worried, disappointed and sad.
(Sometimes our nights find us with the same emotions…)

Joseph was ready to quietly break off his betrothal to Mary
until one night in his fitful sleep he was lulled by a dream
and in the dream, an angel came to visit
and from the angel came the message, “Joseph, don’t be afraid…”
Don’t be afraid - of what?
Of taking Mary into his home as his wife?  Yes, that.
Of caring for a child he knew he had not fathered? Yes, that too.

But most of all, the angel in the dream was telling Joseph,
“Don’t be afraid of how the mystery of God 
is weaving itself into your life,
into your heart, your love, your desires, into your whole future.

“Don’t be afraid, Joseph, of how the mystery of God
will touch your life, shape your life, turn your life around
and stand you on your head.
“Don’t be afraid, Joseph no matter what comes your way,
because in everything - and in all things,
good and bad, sad and happy, joyful and painful -
in all things, God will be with you.”

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,
things that would stand us on our head,
in ways we never dreamed
and sometimes in ways we had hoped and prayed
would never happen.

There is perhaps no time in the year more than Christmas
when we are so keenly aware
of dreams that have happily come true
and dreams that have sadly failed or slipped from our grasp.

The song may tell us we dream of a white Christmas
but our hearts tell a different story.
Our hearts tell the story of hopes and disappointments,
of joys and sorrows, of blessings and losses.
And often this season finds us to be, just like Joseph:
anxious, afraid, embarrassed, worried, disappointed or sad.

Whether in a dream or more bluntly right here in the scriptures,
whether in an angel’s message or in a simple homily,
the word to each of us is precisely the word spoken to Joseph,
 “Don’t be afraid… because in everything, and in all things,
 (good and bad, sad and happy, joyful and painful) in all things: God Is with you: EMMANUEL.”
As it was for Joseph in his days, so it is for us every Christmas.
Being truly 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 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 or hoped.

And most of all, being ready for Christmas
means trusting that God is with us, Emmanuel,
in everything and in all things.
Consider Joseph’s doubts, his  anxiety, 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…

Imagine Joseph as the patron saint
of all who find the holidays to be a difficult time
and of all who are preparing to celebrate Christ’s birthday…

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

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

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel…


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