There is an order to life’s timeline, isn’t there? At least, that’s what the old children’s song says. “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” Yet so many of us experience life out of order. Parents bury children. Grandparents serve as parents. Some are forced into early retirement. Terminal illness arrives in middle age. The list goes on.
Joseph experiences life out of order. He is betrothed to Mary, who is pregnant with a baby that does not belong to him. A pregnant-out-of-wedlock situation is not how adult children want to return to their hometown for a census-taking family reunion. Bad timing, Emperor Augustus.
The significant cultural distance between Joseph’s time and ours does not obscure the fact that this is a difficult situation for Joseph. Matthew’s Gospel reveals how Joseph wrestles with Mary’s pregnancy, saying he “planned to dismiss her quietly” (1:19), until an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.
Would a dream be enough for me in that situation? Probably not.
Joseph is one of those biblical people I want to have coffee with. Why did you stay with her? How did you experience God in this out-of-order experience? How did parenting Jesus put flesh to your faith?
Jesus’ birth story reveals God’s power amidst out-of-order life moments. Like Joseph, we see in a glass dimly. Like Joseph, we have a sacred responsibility to discern that which is faithful in times of uncertainty. Like Joseph, sometimes we become a part of something much bigger than our own life.
Reflect on your out-of-order moments in life. In those experiences, when did you feel alone or without God? When did you feel God’s presence?
God of light and life, when we experience life out of order, thank you for your presence and guidance. Amen.