the one about the 'little' miracles...
January 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

Sermon from December 18, 2016

Text: Matthew 1: 18-25

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and Savior who is to come – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, when you think of miracles what comes to your mind? I believe that most of us probably skew towards the miracles and signs we see lifted up in scripture – the parting of the sea, the bread that fills the widow and her son, water to wine, walking on water, feeding thousands. I think I am like most people where when I think of a miracle, I think of some large and extraordinary example of goodness – something that no one thought before was possible.

It makes sense since when we hear of miracles we think of those big ones from our holy scriptures, so naturally we assume that miracles today must be like those of ages past.

So, for modern day miracles we think of extraordinary turnabouts in medical diagnosis. Someone has cancer and now they don’t. Someone was declared dead on the table, yet mysteriously revived much later than ever thought possible. Scientists invent a thruster that requires no propellant and they still don’t know how it works, but at least acknowledge that it does. The Cubs somehow didn’t find a way to lose the World Series.

Of course, because we believe that miracles must be so extravagant, extraordinary, and crazy we come up with those ‘sarcastic miracles’ as well. “Daddy – my nose doesn’t hurt since I took that medicine.” It’s a miracle!

For whatever reason, we are conditioned to believe that miracles are truly, truly rare and that only a true miracle is one that is so crazy that it couldn’t otherwise be taken seriously. That isn’t to say that those moments aren’t miracles, but if anything, our gospel lesson this morning at least points out that miracles aren’t just the big events and moments.

Now, if I asked you where the miracle is in this small snippet of Matthew’s gospel, where do you think most people would say it turned up? Probably the whole vision that Joseph had right? It’s a miracle that an angel speaks to Joseph in a dream to allay his fears and doubts concerning his soon-to-be wife.

She holds a ‘miracle’ in her belly, the child is the son of God.

For the most part you’re right – this is a miraculous story. Receiving visions from an angel of the Lord would be pretty high up on my ‘miracle’ list too.

But, there is a subtle moment here in this part of Joseph’s story that is definitely miraculous, and it does involve his dream.

It’s Joseph’s response. Upon receiving this message within his dream, he decided to go against what he had already resolved to do. He followed through in taking Mary as his wife. He approached it – presumably – with no fear. Living into what the messenger had told him.

To me, that’s miraculous. Incredibly miraculous. Something I would never have thought possible.

You’re probably thinking – but, come on pastor. Joseph was a good guy, of course he’d do that.

To be honest, I don’t know.

During this time, it is hard for us to understand the magnitude of what it meant for Mary to be pregnant before her marriage. There were rules against that and their punishments weren’t taken lightly. The way that those punishments were lived out were in order to protect the ‘image’ of the man.

Joseph was being the ‘good guy’ by trying to dismiss Mary quietly. To take her back to her family, end the contract of marriage, and move on. “Unwilling to expose her to public disgrace” is – I think – a nice way of saying he didn’t want her to be stoned to death – which is very likely the outcome that would’ve happened if he followed through with the customs of the day.

Parading and shaming her out in public because of what she apparently had done.

So, Joseph’s a good guy because he didn’t want to subject Mary to that.

The miracle is that Joseph lived into what people knew him as – righteous.

As I’ve mentioned before, being ‘good’ and being ‘righteous’ aren’t necessarily one in the same. Being good is dismissing someone quietly so as not to bring too much shame upon her and upon you. That’s good, but it isn’t righteous.

Being righteous is living a life that takes on the ‘shame’ of Mary’s child – that is not his. Adopting that child and being that child’s father. Righteousness is living in that life while those around you mock, remark, and scorn you for what you’ve done. Wading through the potentially countless conversations of, “Why are you doing this – you don’t have to do this – look what she’s done to you – look what she’s putting you through – why didn’t you take care of that?” Putting up with the remarks of, “Nice of Joseph to do that, but I certainly wouldn’t have stood for it.”

That’s the miracle. Joseph listened to what the angel said to him and lived into it. No matter the cost. Joseph said yes.

What makes this miracle so astounding in our scripture is that what Joseph does is pretty much totally opposite as to what other male faith figures have done. When Moses was approached by God? I’m a nobody. Isaiah? I’m not smart enough. Jonah? Runs literally the other way.

I typically lift up Mary’s desire to live into what she has been set apart for, but even she is astounded by God’s desire and ability to use her as such an important and holy role. She never doubts her own ability to do this, but still ponders how it can be possible.

Joseph is unlike any of those. The angel speaks – Do not be afraid. Joseph awakes and lives into his unspoken, “Ok, God.”

That is a miracle.

So, maybe – just maybe – miracles aren’t always those bombastic, crazy, out from left field moments in our lives. Maybe miracles aren’t just living through cancer after being given a terminal diagnosis. Maybe miracles aren’t always having to be in the right place at the right time.

Maybe miracles are living into what God calls us to do. Maybe miracles are turning to God – in those small, yet powerful ways – despite what the world around us shouts. Maybe miracles are living into those moments where we might even speak up like Mary and say, “How can this be – this can’t happen…” Speaking those words and having faith in God when the response is, “We’ll see.”

Maybe miracles are saying the small and quiet ‘yes’ to God’s call even when it makes cultural and political sense to say, ‘no.’

This Advent season – even the entirety of our lives of faith – are full of those kinds of miracles. When we begin to see those? We can’t stop noticing them in our lives.


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