“We are invited to say “YES” to God”
The Gospel story that is set for this Sunday in the 3-year lectionary cycle of readings comes from Matthew’s Gospel. It’s a good story for the Sunday before Christmas… a good story about how Jesus was born.
Often we jump ahead in the story… as we did last Sunday with the children’s Christmas play. We remember the journey to Bethlehem, the shepherds in the fields and the angels in the sky announcing the birth of the Christ child. Those are the parts of the story that never get left out of the Christmas pageants. But Joseph can easily become a minor character without a speaking part.
Today’s Gospel reminds us that Joseph was a pretty regular guy… a nice guy, a reasonable guy. When his fiancé got pregnant before the wedding, he dealt with it. He wasn’t going to turn it into a big to-do, but he was just going to dismiss her quietly. No one could have faulted him for that.
But that’s when God got involved in Joseph’s life and decision-making, and nudged him into doing even more than what was reasonable. With every reason to walk away, Joseph chose to stand by Mary, to take her as his wife, and to raise her child as his own. God spoke to him in a dream, and he knew that’s what he had to do. The child was going to be Emmanuel (God-with-us) and Joseph was going to help make that happen.
We don’t often pay much attention to Joseph. We give all the glory to Mary because she was the one who carried the child. She was the one who faced the most danger in having him. And she was the one who so clearly said, “Yes” to God’s unbelievable plan: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord,” she said, “Let it be with me according to your word.”
But they both said “yes,” didn’t they? Mary and Joseph said “yes” to God… and Jesus was born, and lived, and preached, and taught, and healed, and pointed to God, and gave his life so that all of us would be drawn into relationship with our loving God. They both said “yes,” and God came to be with us in Jesus the Christ. They both said “yes,” and the child was born to save us.
It just so happens that today we have two more examples of people saying “yes” to God. Bruce and Dian are going to say “yes” to God again today, as they make their public professions of faith and become members of this congregation of God’s church.
Now, some of you may be thinking that making a profession of faith is hardly comparable to what Mary and Joseph were committing themselves to. Becoming a Christian, or re-committing our lives to following Jesus will not involve giving birth to the Messiah. At most, it will include coming to worship, reading the bible, talking to God about stuff, sharing our gifts, and letting our faith direct our decision-making.
But I came across a quote from Meister Eckhart this week that suggests something more: “What good is it to me,” Eckhart asks, “for the Creator to give birth to the Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture?”
That’s an interesting concept to consider. Mary gave birth to Jesus many years ago, and Joseph stayed by her and helped the boy to come into the world. But we, as Christians, may also be called to give birth to Christ… to make Christ present in the world where we live and work and play.
You remember the apostle Paul’s description of the church as the Body of Christ. As a community of Christians, we can embody Jesus’ presence in the world today. And even as individual Christians, we can make Christ present as much as we follow his way and live like him today. We are invited to be the living face of Jesus in the world… Christ in our families, Christ in our work places, Christ in our friendships, Christ in our neighbourhoods.
Today, I hope that you will take some time to consider how God is calling you to give birth to the Son in your own particular way…. perhaps by participating in a particular ministry in or through the church… perhaps by being the voice of care or the hands of help to someone you know who is struggling… perhaps by sharing the real meaning of Christmas with a child or a young person, or with someone else who needs to hear about the goodness and love of God.
Of course, I said that there were two examples of people saying “yes” to God this morning. And the second one is Matthew Pelerine. So far, it might feel like Matt is simply saying “yes” to St. Andrew’s. After going through the application and interview process, the Session invited Matt to join us in ministry as our Youth and Children’s Ministry Co-ordinator. And Matt said “yes” when Spencer phoned to offer him the job.
But indeed, Matt’s “yes” is a “yes” to God and God’s call to work with us in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with our children. Although Matt is well-equipped for this position, I know that there will be challenges, just as there are in any ministry position. But just as Mary and Joseph said “yes,” Matt is saying “yes,” and God will work in and through, and even despite him, to accomplish God’s good purposes.
One of the first examples in the Christian Church of someone who was called to a particular ministry was the apostle Paul. Just like Mary, Paul understood that he had been called and set apart by God for a special task. He referred to himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ,” ready and willing to do whatever God asked him to do, no matter how daunting the mission might be. And Paul’s mission was to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Though he himself was a Jewish Christian, he had come to understand that Jesus was for everyone, and he was bound and determined to share the good news with the world.
Paul said “yes” to a special calling from God… just as Mary and Joseph said “yes,” just as Matt is saying “yes.” But Paul also knew that each and every person who turns his or her life to the way of Jesus is called and invited to say “yes” to God and to embrace a special calling as well.
This morning we heard a few verses from the beginning of one of Paul’s letters to the Roman Christians, a church that was made up mostly of Gentile Christians. Paul wrote “to all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints” – who are called to be “set apart,” who are called to be “holy.” And he hoped that, despite the challenges of being Christian, each one of them would say “yes” to God, and participate in making Jesus present in their time and their culture.
Jesus was born many years ago, and God came to be WITH US. But I pray that Jesus will be born again today, and tomorrow, and next week, and next year. As we step forward in faith to say “yes” to God again, may Christ be born in us. Amen.