Sermon – December 22, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin
Advent IV, Year A
When Joseph awoke from his sleep, he did as the angel commanded him… Matthew 1:24
Please be seated….
In 1996, my daughter, Carrie, and I lived together in Charlotte, North Carolina. Carrie was in her Junior year at Queens College (now Queens University). Carrie has suggested I come live with her in North Carolina, because I had recently been divorced, finished my MSW degree and was looking to move from Kansas. Rather than go back to Pennsylvania, I decided to go to someplace totally new. My daughter and I rented an apartment together, which she liked better than living on campus. Her friends thought it was a little strange, though.
That fall my parents suggested we all meet in the North Carolina mountains for a weekend. As a child my family always took at least a 1-day trip to look at the change of the leaves in Pennsylvania. This year, we’d do the trip in North Carolina.
Carrie and I left that Friday after work and her classes. I was driving to a place we’d never visited. This was before GPS and Carrie was navigating using the map. At one point, there was a split and I asked Carrie which way we should go. “Mom”, she said, “it really doesn’t matter. You can go either way.” Well, of course I didn’t believe her. There had to be one way that was better than the other. More emphatically, I said, “No, Carrie, tell me which way to go. There has to be one way that is better.” She is my daughter, so just as emphatically, she said, “No, Mom, you can go either way. It doesn’t matter.” We were nearing the point of making a choice and now I’m yelling, “Tell me which way to go.” I’m driving about 65 miles per hour and now I’m trying to grab the map from her. She’s keeping it away from me. “Just choose, Mom.” Finally I yelled, “SHOW ME THE MAP!”
This story stays with me, because it is a metaphor for my life, I believe. SHOW ME THE MAP, I yell at God. I want to see the best way to get there. I need to see where I’m going to end up. Somehow we believe there are these maps of the perfect life, the perfect way to live, the perfect route, even the perfect Christmas.
Today, as we are close to the birth of Jesus, we are reminded that our maps of perfection are often flawed and really of no use.
In our Gospel, we hear Joseph’s side of the story. Joseph, whose line of David was important to Jesus’ lineage, but who was not the biological father of Jesus. The map of Joseph’s time said that if your betrothed was pregnant prior to the marriage, you should not marry her. She had committed adultery, a most terrible offense. Joseph could have been loud about Mary’s indiscretion, but he resolved to quietly divorce her. Mostly, he was following the map of his time for the good and righteous life.
But Joseph has a dream where he is told to continue with his marriage to Mary and to be a father to the child, who will be the salvation of the people. So, Joseph does not follow the map of convention of his time. He follows the map God sets out for him to follow.
God upends the maps of our time…God is not impressed with our maps of perfection.
Joseph did not know where God’s map would take him. He could not see the final destination. He could only do and obey what was in front of him. The part of the map God put right in front of him.
Joseph adopted Jesus. He did all he could to care for his family, even listening to another dream by fleeing to a foreign land, Egypt, when Herod was killing the little boys. He taught Jesus a vocation. When I was in Israel, I was told Joseph’s work was really more comprehensive. He could fix anything. Kind of like what I hear about Karl. Joseph taught this trade to Jesus. Joseph trusted God and is a model for all fathers and men.
As we approach our celebration of love incarnate, what maps of perfection do you need to discard? Do you have expectations for the perfect family Christmas…something that may never be? Are you hanging on to traditions and things of the past, that can’t be. As I mentioned last week, are you so busy looking at the door that’s closed, that you fail to see the new path being provided to you? Are we, like I was with my daughter, yelling “SHOW ME THE MAP!”?
We must replace our maps of perfection, with the Map of God. And we need to understand that often, God will give us only the next part of the journey. We cannot predict where it will end, only stay true to the guidance given us at this moment…to this part of the path. Yes, it is frustrating. Yes, this requires great faith and trust. We must learn to be like Joseph and awaken from our sleep and do what the angel commands….