Sermon by Rev. Justin Beatty
and happy advent.
Advent season is a time of year that we sit and wait and look forward to the coming of Christ, and, coincidentally, when we start to go through the story of the coming of Christ.
This morning, we’re discussing the story of that first Advent through the perspective of Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father.
Now, Joseph is in a really sticky spot here.
See, he has this fiancée, Mary.
Side note, in that culture,
being engaged was as legally binding as the marriage itself,
which is why in some translations or versions of the Bible the word the word divorced is used in verse 19.
So he’e engaged to be married,
or married, depending on how you look at it,
and he finds out that Mary is pregnant.
And he knows the baby isn’t his,
because... you know... reasons,
And he didn’t really think of Immaculate Conception as a possibility, because it had never happened before, or since, as it turns out,
so, by process of elimination,
Joseph figures that his fiancée has cheated on him.
See Joseph thought he had a plan,
thought he had his life with Mary figured out,
and suddenly there’s a bit of a swerve thrown at his plans,
and what do we do when that happens?
When it’s clear our plans aren’t going to pan out?
We come up with a new plan.
Funny story about that,
Thanksgiving week my wife and I had a plan,
we were going to go down to California to spend Thanksgiving with my mom and sister.
So we packed up our car according to the plan,
we drove through Washington and most of Oregon,
and we’re driving up Mt. Ashland, in the south of Oregon,
all a part of the plan.
And our car starts to make this faint clicking or whirring sound,
and Liina-Ly and I look at each other and we figure that that sound can’t be good,
but you know, the sound had just started,
and there’s generally some lag between when the sounds start and the situation becomes dire, so we figured we should still be able to get down to Fresno,
just like the plan said,
and we could have the car looked at there.
Then about 15, 20 minutes later that whirring sound,
it got a lot louder,
and then the car stops making any sounds,
including the sounds that cars are supposed to make.
That was not a part of our plan.
So our original plan to get to Fresno was clearly not going to work out,
it was time for a new plan.
First, we called the auto shop in Ashland and called the tow truck,
because we couldn’t very well stay on the side of the Interstate,
and while we were waiting for the tow truck we prayed about it devised a new plan.
Liina-Ly looked up the rental companies in Ashland,
because we still had to get to mom’s house.
And I looked up how much 2005 Corollas are worth,
and we went through all our options and contingencies,
we discussed how long we are willing to stay in Ashland,
and we discussed how much we were willing to spend to fix the car,
and we devised a new plan.
And then the tow truck came and took our car to the automotive graveyard,
and the auto shop took us to the Enterprise Car Rental who fixed us up with a monster truck and we were on our way.
or, maybe not, I don’t wanna minimize what Joseph was going through,
wives and sedans are not the same, like at all.
But, his old plan didn’t look like it was going to work,
I mean infidelity like that is a pretty big hurdle to jump over in a marriage,
especially when it happens right at the start,
it’s not a particularly good precedent to set.
So Joseph devises a new plan.
He decides that he’s going to divorce Mary for her apparent infidelity,
but he’s going to be quiet about it,
because he’s a nice guy and he doesn’t want to brand this woman with any kind of scarlet letter,
and the text doesn’t say anything about him talking to God about his decision,
but God sure does reach out to him.
You see, Joseph has his plan,
but God has a different plan.
And what is God’s plan?
Do nothing, essentially.
Joseph has his next steps figured out,
but the angel of the Lord comes down to him and tells him, yeah all that stuff you just decided on?
Don’t do any of that.
The angel tells Joseph about Immaculate Conception,
and about who this baby was and what he was going to do, and that Joseph should go through with his marriage to Mary. And so that’s what Joseph does,
That’s the beginning of the story of advent,
the story of God telling Joseph to do nothing.
Doing nothing isn’t something that’s easy in our cultural context, right? Americans, we like doing stuff,
we like to be busy.
A while back somebody told me that busy-ness itself is kind of a status symbol in our culture, and they’re right.
if you’re really busy,
that means that a bunch of people have asked you to do stuff,
which means you’re in demand,
which means you’re important and special and talented and all the superlatives.
So the busier someone is,
the more important they are,
or at least feel.
So as a result we look for ways to be busy.
We want to be busy,
doing the most projects,
the most extra-curriculars,
the most social engagements,
because doing all that means we’re important,
means we’re cool.
We’re always doing something,
because also it’s engrained in our culture that only lazy people take time to do nothing.
And there’s no time that we do more somethings than the month-ish before Christmas. We’re doing so many somethings during this time.
We’ve got to do all the things.
We’ve got to get the Christmas tree,
we’ve got to decorate the Christmas tree, we’ve got to decorate the home,
we’ve got to get all the presents,
we’ve got to wrap all the presents,
we’ve got to go to all the holiday parties (plural), we’ve got to make all the travel arrangements, we’ve got to make the fruitcake, or whatever. Honestly,
I’m getting exhausted just thinking about it.
As it so happens,
the Advent season and the month before Christmas overlap quite a bit.
So what happens is we end up spending Advent Season,
this season where we’re supposed to sit and reflect on the coming of Jesus,
the season that started when God’s angel came down and told Joseph to do nothing, by doing all these somethings.
And this pattern is so engrained in our culture,
we’re so used to running around like chickens with our heads cut off,
especially during the Advent season,
that it’s inconceivable to us to do anything else.
When I was down in Fresno my mother asked me what I was preaching about today,
and so I told her,
and I told her about Advent season and about what the angel told Joseph and about being still awaiting the coming of Christ and all that,
and do you know what she said?
Actually she didn’t say anything,
she was too busy laughing at me for having the audacity that we should take some time to reflect on Christ during Advent.
She couldn’t even think of a way to separate Christmas with all this busy-ness,
with all this doing something.
If I could respond to that with the words of the great British philosopher,
Winnie the Pooh,
when he said:
“I’ve found that sometimes doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.” And that’s what Joseph found out throughout the very first advent season,
and during that first Christmas.
He junked his plan to do something,
and did nothing instead.
And his doing nothing led to his participation in the life of Jesus Christ, which I would say qualifies as one of the very best somethings.
Now, I’m not advocating for always just doing nothing.
Matter of fact, the last time I was in this pulpit I said that sometimes he have no choice but to do something.
And there are absolutely times to do all of our somethings.
Working is good.
Volunteering is good.
Being social is good.
Fighting for what you believe in is good.
But resting is also good,
and furthermore, resting,
doing nothing sometimes,
it helps us recharge our batteries to do all our somethings.
Otherwise we end up like water pitchers that have been emptied out,
and we have nothing else to give.
That’s why God builds these times to rest, to do nothing, into our calendar.
It’s why God commanded us to take a Sabbath,
and it’s why God gave us the Advent season to sit and rest and reflect on the coming of Christ.
Like Solomon says in Ecclesiastes,
“there is a time for everything,
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to weep, and a time to dance;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” Notice that all these couplets all involve opposites. So there is a time to do something,
and Advent is a time to do nothing.
it might just lead to the very best of something.
Please pray with me:
thank you for today,
thank you for the blessings you’ve given us, like the blessing of the Advent season,
a time to sit and rest and look towards the coming of your Son. A time to do nothing.
And I pray that you would help us to honor that season,
to take this time you’ve given us,
that in doing nothing,
we would be led to the very best somethings. In your son’s precious name,