A 2-voice Sermon for December 21, 2014 – Advent 4
I was excited. And a little nervous. But I was going to be married. And that is a big deal for any one. And then the world changed. And I mean changed.
There I was, minding my own business, tending to my daily chores, when suddenly there was this ...being... standing in front of me. I mean it obviously wasn't a human. But it spoke. It told me I was favoured, that God was with me. I have to admit that I was less than coherent as I replied. I mean I had no idea what was going on and it is pretty terrifying to have a being (maybe an angel???) appear and start talking to you – no matter how friendly it sounds or how nice the words.
I guess the angel, at least I am sure now it was an angel, could tell I was afraid. Because the next thing it said was “Don't be Afraid”. So I started to breathe a little bit easier. After all, who doesn't like to be told that they are in God's good books? But the angel didn't stop there. It went on to say I was going to have a baby. I think I fainted for a moment...
I had waited a long time. I wanted to be sure I could support a family before getting married. And then I was ready. So I spoke to Mary's father and we made the arrangement. Everything was going smoothly, or at least as smoothly as thing go under Roman oppression, and then...well something happened...I still don't know how best to talk about it...
After I woke up again I asked the angel to say that again. “You are going to have a baby” it said and then went on about who this baby would be. I am not sure I fully understood it all. I was still trying to work out the first part of the news.
Finally I worked up the nerve to speak. I pointed out that this couldn't possibly be right. I wasn't married yet. It was too soon for me to be pregnant. There must be some sort of mistake. I thought maybe the angel would realize this and go away. But nope. Instead it gave me a story about how God's Spirit would come upon me and then I would be pregnant with God's child. Then it repeated something about the Son –I was going to have a Son– being an heir to the throne of David.
I was still a little doubtful, so then the angel told me that my cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant, and we had all assumed she would NEVER have a baby. The next thing I knew I was agreeing and the angel left. It was only then that I began to REALLY worry. How would I tell my parents? How would we tell Joseph? What would happen to me? I knew what could happen to girls who got pregnant too soon...
So here I am, working away on my projects, and preparing for our marriage, when Mary's father appears at my door. He had a strange look on his face. He said he had something to tell me. But then he couldn't say anything, he just stood there looking, well, ashamed is the best way I could describe it. And Mary came in. She didn't say anything at first, just looked at me. Then, in a voice so quiet I could hardly hear her, she told me she was going to have a baby. Then she just stood there, waiting...
I didn't know what to say. What could I say? I mean really what were my options?
After a long moment of silence I found my voice. I couldn't respond right then, but I knew I needed to respond soon. I asked if I could have a week to think about it. Mary's father agreed and they left.
Now what was I going to do? I knew my rights under the Law. I knew what the village people would say behind my back. Mind you they would say those things no matter what I did.
Everything I had ever learned told me that the right thing to do was to call the marriage off. But could I do that to Mary?
Now I had seven days to make up my mind...
I was so scared. Joseph looked so hurt, so confused, so angry. I don't know what I expected. I just know I was afraid of what he would say. Would he yell? Would he cry? Would he take me to the center of town and publicly shame me? Would he have me stoned?
But he didn't do any of those things. He just stood there, staring at me, then looking at the floor. He asked for 2 days to decide what he would do and we left. And now I wait.
There are days when I wonder why I agreed to this madness. Why didn't I just say thanks but no thanks when the angel came. But then again did I really have a choice? And I was so certain it was the right thing to do. I could just feel that this was what God wanted for me. But if Joseph doesn't feel that too? Then what? I mean I still am sure this is meant to be. I just know that I can't raise a child, even if it is God's child, by myself. How long can a week feel like?
So by the end of the 6th day I had finally made up my mind. I did not want to hurt Mary. I had become quite fond of her after all. But everything I had ever been taught told me that I couldn't take Mary as my wife. Despite what she said, it was obvious that she had been with some other man. I mean she was pregnant! And there is really only one way for that to happen. Right? Even if it wasn't her fault, even if she had no choice I just couldn't marry her. Could I?
But really I didn't want to hurt her or cause her shame. So I decided that I would be as subtle as possible. I wouldn't denounce her in public. I wouldn't haul her out to the center of town for judgement. I would just quietly go to her father and call the wedding off. No harm done. Having made my decision I was finally able to sleep.
And what a sleep that was....
I guess it was a dream. Or at least it must have been a dream. And yet it felt very , REAL, more real than a dream usually does. In it I was visited by... someone... maybe an angel, a messenger from God. Can that be possible? Me? Getting a message from God? Apparently so.
Anyway the angel told me that Mary had been right. She was carrying God's child. And it was alright for me to marry her. There would be no shame, no dishonour in doing that. This was the child we had been waiting for for so long. This was the one who had been promised, the one people would call Emmanuel, God-with-Us, the one who would save us.
When I woke up I lay there for a long time, trying to understand. Then it all sank in. I WOULD marry Mary. We WOULD have a son. And God is at work in all of this. It all seems so odd. But now it is time. The week is over...
Here he comes. It has been such a long week. What will he say? What will he do?
Hello Mary. I have made my decision.
You have? And that is...
We will be married. I understand now. God sent me a message. I understand all of it. Well maybe not all of it, but enough. I believe you.
O Joseph I am so happy. God promised that things would work out. God said this was the plan. Right now I need to go visit my cousin Elizabeth. But then I will come back and we will be married. And we will have a SON.
Yes Mary, and when he is born we will name him...