December 16, 2010

do not be afraid

I guess angels are scary beings. They are always having to say, "have no fear" or "don't be afraid." I wonder if it their physical appearance or, more probably, the news that they bring.

I was struck this morning by what the angel says to Joseph in his dream. He says, "do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife." Now Matthew only tells us that Joseph is a righteous man and his plan is to dismiss Mary quietly so as not to publicly disgrace her. There is no mention of fear, but I bet there was a whole lot of it inside Joseph.

To stay with Mary is to implicitly admit guilt. She is betrothed to Joseph. They aren't yet married, and, oooopsy, she's knocked up. To stay with her takes the blame away from Mary and places it squarely on his once righteous shoulders. To stay with Mary brings shame upon himself, his family, and his community. To stay with her means he's out of the Elks club, out of the Country club, out of the Home Builders Association. To stay with her is to give up everything he knows.

And that, my friends, is scary.

When the angel tells Joseph to not be afraid, he is asking a lot. He's asking Joseph to trust in God while his whole world falls apart around him. And, somehow, Joseph musters the strength to do it.

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