“but before they came together (for the wedding), she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18)” Skeletons in the closet! Peace??? “Houston, we have a problem!”
The Gospel of Matthew, after the list of the genealogy of Jesus through his earthly father, Joseph, fulfilling promise, jumps straight to the problem. Jesus, through his adoptive father, fulfills prophecy to be of the lineage of King David but in-fact Joseph is not the father. Watching Season 4 of The Crowne last week, an episode deals with the Queen Mother’s uncle who married a woman with mental illness in her family line. To preserve the integrity of the crown, the “skeletons” are put in a closet and the embarrassing relatives are institutionalized. Matthew, on the other hand, does not hide or circumvent the awkward, mysterious truth but opens his narrative with the realization that Joseph is not at peace with “the plan.”
We know this scenario. Many of us have had that child that took the path less traveled by the siblings and the family. We call them, the black sheep. Or perhaps, we are T-boned by accident or illness and the dream disappears in complications of the present. Some arrive at the alter but the other has changed his or her mind. The future is not guaranteed.
Joseph, we know, struggled. He had options. He could claim his integrity that he had not broken cultural rules and have Mary stoned. Alternatively he could have her shuffled off, “divorce her quietly,” because he had already agreed with Mary’s parents about the marriage and during the one-year engagement period Mary was to keep herself “pure.” Joseph had options and we have options as we juggle the hoped for future with the reality of the present and ponder where the hand of God is in the decision we face. How do we find peace knowing that there is a God overseeing our lives and yet experiencing the difficulties of life? Do we blame God or blame self or blame “the other”?
As Joseph wrestles with his situation, he dreams and an angel comes to him and says, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid.” God is in this situation and walking with him, it is “from the Holy Spirit.” Perhaps you do not believe in angels coming in dreams with messages, but in experiences that we traumatize over, when someone comes alongside and affirms relationship and involvement with us and not judgment and rejection, we find the peace, the courage to continue. We are not as afraid. A friend who survived cancer shares the story. A friend who went through divorce shares the experience. A survivor of abuse tells the story. AA provides community to fight the addiction.
I believe the story as Matthew tells it, that Matthew was conflicted, weighing alternatives because of the narrative of Christmas and how it was unfolding and in the midst of that unrest, he came to peace with God, with Mary with Mary’s family and with the public distain he would have to live with. An angel visited and assured him God was in his plight and with him. He need not fear to embrace his life.
So where are we experiencing angst today and weighing our options? It could be something like picking just the right Christmas present to send just the right message to that beloved person. It could be coming to peace with the results of the presidential elections or the seemingly pervasive presence of a dangerous virus we cannot see. There may be a skeleton in the closet we have tried to hide for a lifetime, a teenage pregnancy, an addiction problem, a problem child, and a failed marriage. The Christmas message helps us find peace with God who holds our lives and with the others who walk with us through life. We have options and faith is the option to trust the God who walks with us. And in that faith, we find peace. Blessings.