A Year With Jesus: Matthew 1:18-25.
In Mrs. Doubtfire, one of my favorite comedies, Robin Williams’ character finds himself in a stage of life that he never expected. In one scene, after being reprimanded by his boss, he ponders, “Have you ever wished you could freeze frame a single moment of your day, look at it and say, ‘This is not my life’?”
I think we all face moments of “surrealness” in our lives. They can be in the context of both positive and negative experiences.
Sometimes you think to yourself, “Wow! How did I get here?!”
Other times it’s, “Ugh! How did I get here???”
I’m pretty sure Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, faced one of these moments in this week’s reading.
The Book of Luke tells us the “Christmas story” from the perspective of Mary. Matthew, on the other hand, shows us Joseph’s point of view. Joseph was a good man. But he wasn’t a perfect man. (That honor was reserved for his son. 🙂 ) It’s true, he was more honorable than probably most men put it his position. When he found out that Mary was pregnant, Matthew tells us, “He did not want to put her to shame in public. So he planned to divorce her quietly.”
But I wonder, did Joseph listen to Mary’s side of the story? Or did he just decide to cut his losses and move on? Or, if he did let Mary tell her side, was there any part of him that wanted to believe it was true? But how could it be?
And as all this is churning in Joseph’s mind, he gets a visit from an angel, who confirms that Mary’s side of the story is true. He invites Joseph to be part of Jesus’ story. Don’t be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. And, in the midst of all the surrealness, Joseph accepts.
I think the “Christmas story” has become so familiar to us (even among non-Christians) that we forget these characters – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi – had no idea how any of their circumstances would play out. They didn’t have the luxury of knowing how their story would end.
They were in uncharted territory. It wasn’t a common occurrence for angels to appear in dreams and tell you who to marry. And people were quite aware of where babies came from. Even as Joseph made the decision to take Mary as his wife and become a surrogate father to her son, there had to be part of him that thought this was completely insane. I’m sure in this surreal moment, Joseph thought to himself, “Ugh! How did I get here???”
But I’m also sure that Joseph experienced another surreal moment in his life. Perhaps it was when he first held the baby in his arms. Or maybe it was when Jesus was 12, and Joseph and Mary lost Jesus (yes, they lost him!) and later found him in the temple teaching the teachers. Or maybe it was a moment when Joseph was teaching Jesus his trade of carpentry, and he realized that there was something very special about his son.
And he may have thought to himself, “Wow! How did I get here?!
Questions to Ponder:
Why do you think Joseph decided to follow the angel’s instructions?
Have you ever experienced a “surreal moment” in your life?
*Photo by Erik Johansson. (He has a ton of cool photography!)