Summary: ADVENT 4, YEAR A - All our plans may be in vain. But a life that rests in the plans of God will not go astray
A few years ago I remember watching a public service announcement on TV where the opening image was a close-up of a young teenage boy running for all he’s worth. In the background the announcer spoke of how as a boy this young man had dreamed about what he would be when he grew up. Then as the camera pulled back from the young man you could see two police officers in hard pursuit and hear the commentator conclude with these words, “what he didn’t dream of was growing up to be a drug dealer.” How does one seek to describe such a turn of events from hope to ruin? Perhaps Robert Burns put it best when, after seeing his brother chasing a helpless field mouse, wrote these words
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of Mice and Men,
Gang aft agley,
The best laid schemes of Mice and Men, often go Astray. When this poem was first published in the Kilmarnock edition it moved the critic Snyder to acclaim “the tragedy of the mouse has become the tragedy of Burns himself, and of all heart-broken folk who review the past with regret, or await the future with misgiving.” What lead Snyder to make such a statement was that prior to November of 1785 Burns had lost both his father and a brother and so, at the writing of this poem had devastation on his mind. What do you do? What do you think? What do you say, when all your plans turn to dust at your feet? You’re fired! It’s cancer! I’m pregnant! What words can restore broken dreams. This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. What do you do? when all your plans turn to dust at your feet? You pick up the pieces as best you can and you go on. One step after another. You wall away the pain and you go on as best as you can. Much like Joseph did.
If the birth of Jesus had been left for us to arrange, I wonder what we would have decided? Probably a committee would be formed to decide on the best parents. Then there would be a selection process until we arrived at the ideal couple. I don’t suppose an unmarried mother and her carpenter fiancé would have stood much of a chance. In many ways Mary represents much that has been rejected by humanity throughout the ages. She was young, unmarried, and pregnant. And so at this early stage in the story, Joseph’s response seems normal. Shocked by her sudden pregnancy, his instant reaction was to ditch her. And that’s exactly what would have been expected by good, decent people. Although Joseph was too gentle a person to demand the stoning of Mary, as was his right by law, nonetheless it was his duty to get rid of her. So he decided to quietly drop the engagement. When you take it at face value, this story surrounding the birth of Jesus is pretty sordid. But Matthew exclaims that it was God who wrote this story. What could He have been thinking? And because God was the author those caught up in this story find a different meaning to the events at hand. After Joseph had considered what he was going to do 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.”
As I listen to this part of the story I can’t help but think back to my childhood days listening to the comedy of Billy Cosby and what I expect to hear is Joseph saying, “Ya, Right! Am I on Candid Camera?” I mean, after all this story is crazy! Who in their right mind would believe a line like this? “But when Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” What on earth was Joseph thinking?
Lord I know He’s not my own.
Not of my flesh, not of my bone.
Still Father, let this baby be
The Son of my love.
Father show me where I fit
into this plan of Yours.