Friday, December 17, 2004

Do not be afraid....

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:20-21, NIV)

I'm sure he must have been surprised
at where this road had taken him
'Cause never in a million lives
would he have dreamed of Bethlehem
And standing at the manger, he saw with his own eyes
the message from the angel come to life - and Joseph said,

Why me? I'm just a simple man of trade!
Why Him, with all the rulers in the world?
Why here, inside this stable filled with hay?
Why her? she's just an ordinary girl!
Now I'm not one to second-guess
what angels have to say -
But this is such a
strange way to save the world.
(4Him, "A Strange Way to Save The World",
on "The Season of Love" CD)
I don't know which would have been stronger - my fear and terror to be visited by an angel, or my utter incredulity at the message the angel brought. When storyteller Ed Stivender tells the story of Joseph's visitation, Joseph hears the announcement, and says,"You have just GOT to be kidding me." The angel replies, in a Gregorian-chant kind of way, "No - angels aren't allowed to kid."

"Don't be afraid, Joseph - what seems like despoiling your virgin fiancee' and attacking your reputation is actually the work of God. The Law tells you that you can divorce her, even have her quietly killed. All I'm telling you to do is disregard everything that your mind tells you to do - because this is God's plan, not an earthly plan."

I just love "A Strange Way to Save the World" - it has become one of my all-time Christmas favorites, precisely because it speaks to my own heart. If I were Joseph, I'd be asking, "What the hell kind of plan is this, God? What's this baby going to do to save the world? It all seems so, so impossible." But then I'm reminded...that's what God does best of all...

When God's messengers tell me that the road I walk is going to change, of *course* I'm afraid, at first (and often for a while after that, too). I've experienced that a lot this last year...and I've learned, time and time again, that "walk by faith" can be three terrifying words, sometimes. I'd much rather stick to my own plan, time and time again. The only problem is, I'm usually not given a choice...

The good news is, Scripture tells us that Joseph pioneered this road for us. When we are called to step out in faith, and we can't see where the next step will take us, the angel says to us as well: "Do not be afraid...the word Emmanuel is still true: our God is still with us."

For me, there is an amazing comfort simply in knowing this is true.

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