Whoops – yesterday’s reflection wasn’t actually one of Ali Boulton’s. Sorry about that, we hope you enjoy Ali’s ‘Practising For Christmas’ today though:
Matthew 2: 18-25
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
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.”
All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d](which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
When I was a child my parents highly valued ‘obedience’. Being ‘disobedient’ was definitely a crime! I became a Christian as a young child and my prayers of confession almost always centred around saying sorry for my disobedience or reluctant obedience to my parents!
The language of obedience and disobedience, particularly in child rearing, has rather gone out of fashion in favour of ‘making good choices’. On the whole I think this is a good move as it equips and empowers children. However, there are times when a child is not able to make a good choice because they lack knowledge, understanding or ability. Sometimes a child needs to simply obey the command ‘stop!’ because they are unaware of a danger; or follow the parents instructions to ‘turn right’ because the child doesn’t know the way. Sometimes therefore we may concede that obedience is a good thing for children but the idea that as adults we might need to be obedient is quite counter cultural – law abiding yes obedient I don’t think so.
So as Christians how do we respond to a God who calls us to obedience?
Is this a God who wants to oppress us and take away our ability to utilise our free will?
In the story of Joseph we encounter a young man who wants to use his free will to make good choices, to act with integrity, but he simply isn’t in a position to understand the whole story.
This experience resonates with me. I long to serve the community on this new housing estate that God has called us to, but my understanding is limited to human wisdom. Time and again we have sensed God calling us to things which are outside of choices we would make. Should we blindly obey God and do something that we don’t understand?
We sensed God said to us that he would tell us what to do through the new community here, but one if the first things they asked us to do was a Halloween party – surely we shouldn’t do that! But we believed God had said that he would tell us what to do through the community so we obeyed that and went ahead. That Halloween party was instrumental in the journey to the emergence of a church 6 months later. If we had not obeyed we would have missed this opportunity to be part of God’s mission. Of course we have missed other opportunities because of our lack of obedience.
I praise God for Joseph’s example here, his simple obedience to God despite the fact that it probably contradicted his human judgement. I pray that we may discern when we are called to simply be obedient to God’s calling even when it seems counter cultural or mysterious. Joseph gained an amazing opportunity to join in with the mission of God because of his obedience – I pray that may be true for us all.
Let’s reflect upon obedience today, about how we might surrender our will to God’s, trusting that he is aware of the bigger picture.
Lord we bow before you in humble obedience
Help us to follow you in the mystery and join in your mission, Amen.