Lisa was not pleased.
It was clear when she shared the peace with me.
Her son and has girlfriend were expecting.
They weren’t married, but they were in their early twenties.
They both had jobs, and were happy about the pregnancy.
So at the peace I had said, “Congratulations on your future grandchild,” expecting the usual glow.
“They’re excited about it,” she said, but her face said she was not.
When I sat down with Lisa to talk about the situation, I learned why she was so upset.
Lisa was a labor and delivery nurse.
She saw young couples all the time, who though were excited at having a baby
Were totally unprepared to care for the child.
Children having children, she said.
Now her own son was going to have child.
He was just getting his life back together after overcoming an addiction to drugs.
He and his girlfriend lived at Lisa’s house; they weren’t independent themselves.
How were they going to add in the responsibility of a baby? She asked.
Then it came pouring out.
“My husband is so excited about it—all he can see is the baby.
But I see all the hardship they are going to have, and what they can give this child.
They are just kids themselves!
And who’s going to look after the baby? Not grandma.
I am at the top of my career right now and I’ve waited my life to do it.
I didn’t sign up for this!
I just don’t know how I can accept this baby.”
I remember Lisa’s words as I think of Joseph.
Scripture says he was a righteous man, an obedient man.
He married the pregnant Mary.
He gave her son his name, adopting Jesus into the family.
Joseph had a dream where an angel who spoke to him
He followed the angel’s instructions and did the right thing.
But have you considered what a struggle that must have been for Joseph?
First of all, it was a huge scandal that Mary was pregnant.
She was engaged to Joseph but not yet living with him; the assumption was that she was an adulterer.
Turning up pregnant meant that at best Mary was in for public shame and shunning;
At worst she could be put to death by stoning, as other adulterers are in scripture.
Joseph saves her from this fate by taking her as his wife.
But now Joseph looks like a cuckold, a role that was never on his top 10 list.
Joseph has to swallow his pride and marry the woman who said ‘yes’ to someone else.
Of course, WE all know that Mary said ‘yes’ to the Holy Spirit.
Joseph knew it, too.
But that knowledge may not have made it easier for Joseph.
After all, the Messiah was supposed to come from the house of David.
That was Joseph’s side of the family!
And here he had nothing to do with this pregnancy.
If I were in Joseph’s shoes, I’d be thinking: This is NOT the way the Messiah is supposed to come.
No asked me if I wanted this!
How can I accept this baby?
Both Joseph and Lisa’s were caught in circumstances that were not of their own choosing.
And that seems a fruitful thing to explore, because isn’t that how it often happens in life?
We do not choose to be laid off
To get sick
To be hand delivered a lawsuit or papers for divorce
But it happens.
And we can either rage at our circumstances and our powerlessness to change them
Or we can listen to the words of the angel.
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”
Like so many other angels the first words out of the angel’s mouth are ‘fear not.’
Fear is what stands in Joseph’s way to accepting these unusual circumstances
Fear of shame, fear of the unknown
Fear of being unworthy
But Joseph does not need to be afraid because God ‘s hand is in this.
The Holy Spirit is using this situation to bring the savior of the world into being
Joseph got a glimpse of the larger plan
The fulfillment of promises from long ago,
and how these crazy circumstances were actually God at work.
Most of us don’t get visited by angels.
All she got was me.
But our prayer that she could accept this baby was granted.
Lisa was there to deliver the baby.
She held her for her first breath and heard her first cry.
At that moment, Lisa fell in love.
The gift of this child was greater than she ever could have imagined.
We may not get angelic messages, and it is often hard to see God’s grand design.
But we can catch glimpses of it.
This story of Joseph is one of them.
If God had a plan for Joseph’s crazy circumstances,
who is to say God can’t bring new life out of ours?
Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, who joined us as a human being
in all our messiness and unplanned surprises.
When we feel like we can’t accept what is happening in our life,
We need only to turn to that baby in the manger.
Jesus was born in the struggle of frustrated expectations, bruised egos and confusing emotions.
And so we can trust that in the midst our struggles, that new life is being born, too.
If you are feeling that you didn’t sign up for this
That your life is out of control
Listen to the words of the angel and hear them spoken to you:
Do not be afraid to enter into the unknown
Do not be afraid to trust
Do not be afraid to open your heart
God is at work, and new life is being born.