He was going to divorce her. She’s pregnant, but he didn’t know how. They had not had relations. She must have been with another man, he thought. But he’s a good man, he doesn’t want her to suffer the shame and consequences that would befall a woman in that day.
He must’ve been sick to his stomach, filled with agony. He surely lamented – why God? Why did she do this? Why did this happen? I thought she loved me. I loved her. I do love her. I love her so much that regardless of her actions, I’m going to suffer the public shame and tell people it’s my fault, that I don’t want to be married to her anymore. I will do this tomorrow.
Of course this is just speculation, because we don’t know, but up to this point in his life, this would be Joseph’s longest night. He probably just laid there for the longest time, his mind racing, sweating. Perhaps he got up for a while and paced, contemplating God’s plan for him, for Mary. Perhaps he cried, and yelled out to God – where are you! But then he laid back down, and finally, drifted off to sleep.
At his darkest hour, in the darkest recesses of his being, God came to him in his sleep.
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means God is with us.”
In Joseph’s darkest hour, God was closest to him and He was with Him. And he shed light on how He was to come and be with us all.
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, we’re nearing the Winter Solstice this coming Wednesday – the shortest day of the year… And the longest night. From there on out, the days get longer, the light shines more.
We’re starting the fourth week of Advent. Hopefully your Advent has been a time of reflection, a time where you have slowed down a bit to see God around you, and a time of repentance as you await the joy of Christ.
Just like the old saying, the night is darkest before the dawn, this week is when it gets the darkest – literally for many of us, and often spiritually.
It’s easy to get distracted leading up to Christmas this last week, prepping for family to arrive, shopping for gifts, Christmas parties, all on top of our daily work and home life. It’s easy to forget about the Reason behind it all.
It’s easy to already be celebrating Christmas and forget about what the Advent Season is all about. It’s easy to want to jump right into Christmas, and spend time with family and giving to those we love. That is all wonderful.
But amidst the secular Christmas season that is all around us, it’s important to remember the Reason for the Season to come, and perhaps just as important, remember the Reason for the Season of Advent, which still goes on for another week.
Today we’re reminded of the prophesy behind it all, that a Virgin will conceive and bear a son and name Him Emmanuel, that God will be with us. Yes, He literally will be here, on this earth, with us. The signs were there throughout history. The prophesy was there, Isaiah bluntly telling King Ahaz what is going to happen.
In today’s world, we see the signs of Christ, but we don’t see them. We know that God is here, with us, but we don’t acknowledge Him. We gloss over Him. We get caught up in our own world, in our emotions, and we lose sight of what’s around us.
Joseph was a good, devout Jew. He knew the scriptures. He knew of the words of Isaiah. It even says in the Gospel that he was a righteous man. But, that’s just it. He was a man. A human. And through his hurt and despair, his darkest night, he called out to God.
God saw his love for Mary, the sacrifice he was willing to make, and he let Joseph get to that point where the only thing he could do was trust in God. Joseph did not know yet that his beloved Mary carried God within her. In his darkest night, God was right there, unbeknownst to him.
And as he drifted off to sleep, God answered him.
Isn’t it funny? When we lose sight of Him and get caught up in all the angst and worry of our circumstances, and we drift off to sleep from our faith, so to speak, that’s when God comes to us.
We’re drifting off to sleep this week… This week is our longest night, our darkest hour leading up to the Light of Christ, the joy of Christmas. This week is our darkness before the dawn, in so many ways. But it’s not a bad darkness, because it’s in the stillness, the quiet of the night where we hear God, where He comes to us and reveals Himself to us.
Have you taken time to prepare yourself this Advent? Have you gone to Confession so that as todays Psalm says, you can be in the Presence of Christ, and be one whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain?
Have you spent time in prayer, seeking God’s will? Have you simply called out to God for his help? Let’s do that this week.
Let’s drift off to sleep, but not asleep from our faith. Let’s drift off to sleep in our faith this week and take time to embrace the stillness and solitude of this time and spend time in prayer with Christ as we await the joy of Christmas, and really listen for what it is He wants to tell us, and pray for the obedience to carry it out, just as Joseph was obedient in understanding that God was right there beside him in the woman he loves.
God is with us. He’s right there next to you. Seek Him and His will for you this final week, this longest night of Advent, so that when you do have the joy of encountering Him – you will obediently carry His grace out into the world.
IS 7:10-14; PS 24; ROM 1:1-7; MT 1:18-24