Have a Little Faith, Joseph!
by Rev. Frank Schaefer
You know, humanly speaking things werenít really going well leading up to that
first Christmas Eve. In fact, the entire Christmas story is one of human
dilemma. The harsh rule of the Romans. The census which forced Mary and Joseph
to go on a long arduous journey. It is a story of human oppression, poverty
and hardship. But it is also a story of simple faith that yields big results.
God never really asks the characters in the bible to muster up big faith--he
always asks for a little faith a little trust, and he takes this little
deposit and turns it into huge profits.
Circumstances couldnít have been
much worse for Mary and Joseph, not being able to find medical care for the
delivery of Maryís baby, nor could they find shelter, nor were they married
when Jesus was born. There was not much positive to be expected for Mary,
Joseph, nor the baby. No future, no career, nothing. And all of this was
happening amidst a great political crisis in which an unwanted census was
forced upon the Jewish people by the then super-power Rome.
Letís talk about Joseph for a
while. In todayís passage we read that he finds out about Mary's condition and
naturally, since he is not the father of the unborn child, he assumes the
worst. Joseph--like any other young man--had dreams and goals in life. His
parents had arranged his marriage, still, he dreamed of the life he would
build with his wife. He would work hard to support his family. They would
raise children - a blessing upon their home. They would go to temple and they
would have a good life, a holy life. They would follow the Torah. He would
bring honor upon his familyís name, the house of David.
And his fiancťe was Mary, a
wonderful young woman. She would make a good wife. His heart was full of love,
joy and anticipation. So he rose early each day, worked hard at his craft,
determined to live into his future.
Then the bottom fell out. Mary was pregnant. What on earth? How...? ... Well,
that was that. He couldn't marry her now. How could she get involved with
someone else? She said she loved him. Can you imagine the pain, the feeling of
betrayal, the anger? Perhaps, he fell into a depression. His dreams of a happy
life with wife and family dashed. Still, he planned to dismiss her quietly. To
spare her public disgrace. After all, he really loved her, no matter how much
she hurt him.
But then he had a dream. In the
dream he was visited by angels, and told things were not as they appeared.
Mary was undefiled. But he was to have a new dream: To father the child of
another, the son of the most high God. And he was to do all in his power to
raise and protect this infant Jesus, for God was going to be with them.
What was Joseph thinking after he
woke? Was this a wishful dream his desperate mind concocted? Could something
like this be true? Could Mary have really conceived a child from God himself?
Joseph had to make up his own
mind what to believe--can he keep his faith in circumstances like this. And so
it is that the very first narrative in the New Testament is the story of a man
trying to decide the same thing everybody has to decide who hears the Gospel:
is Jesus the Son of God or not?
Letís just assume for a moment
that Joseph had not believed that the father of the child was of God. He would
have to assume that the child was from another man. What would have happened
to Mary had Joseph not had faith in the son of God? How would an unwed mother
have fared in first-century Galilee? Would her parents have thrown her out?
Could Mary and Jesus have wound up as street beggars? Speaking in human terms,
God's wondrous Son comes to us as an illegitimate child. Think about it.
But Joseph invested a little
faith and trust. He simply believed that Jesus was God's son. And that little
faith had huge results. It made a difference in Jesus life and subsequently in
the life of all of us who follow Jesus.
God never asks us to have supernatural faith. Jesus said: "If you have faith
the size of a mustard seed you can move mountains. Have you seen a mustard
seed before? I have. It is the smallest of seeds. So small you can hardly see
it. And yet, the mustard seed will grow into a humongous tree.
And in the midst of our destitute
state, our humanity, our sin, and our confusion, God asks us to believe just
as he asked Joseph. God asks us not to despair, not to give up, but to be
people of faith, faith in the future even when the world around us is falling
apart. God is not asking us to believe the impossible; he asks us to believe
that Jesus is God. That's all we need. Because, if we really truly believe
that Jesus is God with us, then we can rest assured that God will take care of
us; as God took care of Joseph and Mary. Let's take that little mustard seed
of faith we have and let us invest it for big results. Amen.