I Believe in Love, Even When I Don’t Feel It

I Believe LOGO“I Believe in Love,
Even When I Don’t Feel It”
Matthew 1:18-25
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Second Sunday of Advent

Birth of Jesus

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place.  When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband was a righteous man.  Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly.  As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said: “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will call him, Emmanuel.”  (Emmanuel means “God with us.”)  When Joseph woke up, he did just as the angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife.  But he didn’t have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son.  Joseph called him Jesus.                                                                (Common English Bible)

The theme for this 2nd Sunday of Advent is “PEACE”…Our candle-lighting verse speaks of believing in “LOVE” even when we don’t feel it.  “PEACE” and “LOVE”…Sounds like a Sunday for tree-huggin’ hippies!

PEACE” reminds us of: “Peace on Earth;”
“Give peace a chance;” and “Peace, Bro!”
(w/ peace sign)
Instead of “World Peace,” maybe we should be thinking about inner peace…The “peace that passes all understanding”…Peace that comes from trusting God…Peace that follows our obedience.

Then there’s “LOVE”…Our culture is full of aphorisms about love…“Love means never having to say you’re sorry,”  “To get love, give love,”  “Love is a battlefield.”  We are surrounded by simple and often times trite understandings of what makes for loving relationships.  Relationships are wrought with wrestling…Wrestling with our own expectations…The expectations of the other…And all of it is wrapped in the fear of rejection.  Not all of us have an angel show up to tell us what to do like Joseph did as he faced the disappointment of a betrothal gone awry.  But perhaps we can heed the angel’s words for letting go into God’s possibilities for all of our relationships.

What are the characteristics of God-given love?  The kind of love that Joseph showed for both Mary and God…The kind of love that casts out fear.  This is a love that: “puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.”  This love: “isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth.”  It is God’s love for all of us.

Matthew’s version of The Nativity Story is told from Joseph’s point- of-view…From the historical perspective, Joseph is important to graft Jesus into David’s family tree…From our perspective, however, Joseph’s story is much more complicated.  Joseph is a model of faithful discipleship long before Jesus sends his followers to “go and make disciples…”  Matthew’s version of the story helps us see how Gods works in our ordinary world…Matthew uses common elements…a young girl; an aspiring carpenter; the birth of a child; …he puts people like us into a situation where they must make decisions that involve religious tradition, the law, and their community…they have to deal with issues about marriage, family, and divorce…Matthew shows how God steps into this “normal life” with creative and transforming power.  By seeing God at work in these ordinary lives, we can begin to believe that God can also be at work in our lives and transform our issues.

Many of us have questions about our relationships…We wonder if we are open enough, or loving enough, or demonstrative enough…Can we treat our partner better?  Are we attune to their needs?

Maybe you have questions about your children and whether you are doing the right things as a parent…We wonder if our children behave the way we think they should when they are away from home…We worry for their safety when they are out with friends past curfew.

Do you ever wonder what is going on in our world?  In our city?  In our country?  Why don’t people treat each other with more respect?  Why is there so much violence in our neighborhoods and in the world?  Why can’t people just get along and love each other the way God loves us?  Matthew shows us a God who comes into our humanity every day to guide us as we try to make sense of the decisions we must make and the relationships we navigate.  The birth of Christ is a moment of creation that offers transformation to the world…It is a story of new life and promise…The story tells us that God still creates…AND…God still loves!

As the central character in Matthew’s story, Joseph is a person of strength and purpose…He is committed and faithful to his religious tradition and is ready to act based on what he thinks is the right thing to do…By the time the angel comes to him in the dream, Joseph has already made up his mind.  What is remarkable about this story is that Joseph doesn’t question or object to the angel’s instructions…He simply changes his course of action based on God’s call…he is able to do this because his obedience to God brings him peace and confidence to act according to God’s will.  Joseph’s response is an example of the power of God to completely transform our decisions and our lives…At every stage of this story, Joseph’s decisions are prompted by the message of an angel…He is resolved to do one thing and God intervenes to send him another way…What happens to us when God is an intrusion into our nicely made plans and decisions?  How do we even know when God is speaking to us and when it’s just a bad burrito?  Depending on your perspective, God’s intervention can be the good news of rescue from a bad choice OR it can be just plain meddling.  I think it all depends on how much we believe in God’s love, even when we may not be feeling particularly loved…And how at peace we are with allowing God to be in charge of every aspect of our lives.  During Advent we pray for God to stir up the power of the Holy Spirit and come to us…We wait and we hope for the coming of the newborn King…Are we really ready to risk that this prayer will be answered?  Are we really prepared for the Lord to come and take charge of our WHOLE LIFE?  Do we love God enough?  Do we love each other enough?  Do we really BELIEVE in LOVE, even when we don’t feel it?

Let us pray…Gracious God, Generous Lover of all people, we thank you for the glimpses we catch of your boundless and unconditional love in the relationships we share.  Even in the midst of fear, of challenge, and of struggle; even when we don’t feel it, ignite the flame of love within us that we might glow with its brilliance from the inside out. Amen.