In the schedule of readings that I use for these daily reflections, today is highlighted as the feast day of Saint Joseph — a day to commemorate the earthly father of Jesus, who took Mary to be his wife, even though her unexpected pregnancy must have been a source of scandal and embarrassment. Not surprisingly, the gospel lesson for the day is Matthew 1:18-25, which tells the story of the angel visitor who convinced Joseph to accept this challenging path. And while reading the text at this point in the year seems a little “out of sync” (since we’re most accustomed to hearing it in the Christmas season), encountering it now does provide an important bit of perspective.
Sometimes, I think, we read the elements of the Christmas story in a way that makes it seem like all the joy, fear, and wonder of the incarnation were crammed into one intense, brief, and glorious window of drama. But when you stop and think about it, that’s not the way it was. Joseph’s “yes” to becoming in the father of Jesus (to say nothing of Mary’s “yes” to becoming the mother of Jesus) was just the beginning of many months in which he probably had to handle the suspicion of friends and family, the gossip of neighbors, and his own uncertainty about whether he was doing the right thing. And even though he did have a heavenly message to provide some sense of assurance — “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” (Mt. 1:20-21) — this doesn’t change the fact that he still had to walk the long road of obedience, which is always a part of saying “yes” to God.
What are the journeys to which God is calling us to say “yes” today? And are we ready for the “long obedience in the same direction” (Eugene Peterson’s phrase) that leads us to the “new birth” that Jesus wants to bring to us and through us? May the Lord grant us the kind of trust in Him that enables us to commit to the long “yes.”