As I read through the readings for this fourth Sunday of Advent, I am struck by the realization that I don’t want to write about this. I already know and believe that a maiden (and virgin as supported by cultural and historical context, tradition, scripture, etc.) gave birth to a child who is the son of God, and the fulfillment of prophecy. Nobody’s reading this but me, and I have no specific obligation in this context to counsel the doubtful or instruct the ignorant on this matter. Besides, it’s good news, but it’s old news.
Maybe I’m a bit like Ahaz – his mind was already set on a course of action, and he didn’t want to hear anything different from the Lord. I, likewise, am eager to write about something else today, despite a commitment to reflect upon each week’s readings and to hold myself accountable to this commitment by publishing my reflections at noon each Friday.
Ahaz was facing armies from the northern kingdom and Syria, who had banded together to resist the Assyrian Empire, and wanted to include Ahaz and the Kingdom of Judah. Ahaz, however, was set on an alliance with Assyria, and had already offered to strip the temple of its gold and silver to seal the deal. Since Ahaz refused the northern kingdoms’ offer, they’re on their way to dethrone him. Now, Isaiah comes along with the good news that the Lord has already solved this problem, and Ahaz just needs to have faith, and he’ll see his enemies crushed.
So, there’s Ahaz. His mind is set, and he’s determined to rely upon his own solutions. He’s not interested in hearing the good news Isaiah brings.
Yeah, I’m like that some times.
I want to solve problems myself, and if I’ve got a solution I’ve reasoned out and committed to, I’m unlikely to be open to hearing “don’t worry about it, I’ve got this.”
I don’t usually want to hear “I love you” from God – I want to hear “if you do X, Y, and Z, I’ll be pleased with you.”
I don’t want to hear him say “I forgive you” – I want to avoid needing (and needing to ask for) forgiveness.
I don’t want to hear “trust me” – I want to hear “I’ll empower you.”
There’s nothing wrong with avoiding the need to ask for forgiveness, or accomplishing tasks and goals, or being determined to follow through, but that can’t come at the expense of faith in God and hope in his love, forgiveness, and provision.
I need to learn to do both.
I need to be more like Joseph.
The gospel presents Joseph, a good man faced with an apparently bad situation. He sorts through the whole thing, and comes up with a solution that will reasonably address all of the important concerns while causing the least possible hurt to those involved. It’s a good, plan.
When the angel of the Lord appears in a dream, and says “Hey, don’t be afraid, do this instead,” Joseph doesn’t hesitate, rationalize, second-guess, or look for a compromise solution between what he’d planned and what the Lord offered. He wakes up, gets up, and takes Mary into his home right away – the very opposite of what he’d intended.
Joseph made a thoughtful plan, but he didn’t hesitate to hear the good news that the Lord offered – Don’t be afraid, I’ve got a plan too.
I want to be more like Joseph.
I came across this word study at www.chaimbentorah.com as I was considering this. You might find it interesting also. My favorite resource on Advent remains Dr. Brant Pitre’s Jesus and the Jewish Roots of Advent.
- Leadership Lessons in the Luminous Mysteries – Baptism in the Jordan
- Leadership Lessons in the Luminous Mysteries – Wedding at Cana