Posted by: Titus Presler | December 18, 2011

Signs of Trust: Meditation for Advent IV Sunday

Like Joseph the son of Jacob, Joseph the husband of Mary took signs seriously and had intriguing dreams.  His story touches us in the struggle we all have about signs (Matthew 1:18-25).  How do we know a sign to be a sign?  How do we know what it means?  How do we know whether to trust it?

Mary certainly trusted her sign, but at first Joseph saw it differently: it meant the marriage should be cancelled.  Then came the dream: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”  Was this an avoidance of hard reality?  Or grandiosity?  A convenient fantasy?  Or the truth?

We’d love to know more about Joseph’s struggle.  Did the anxiety drive him to prayer or away from prayer?  Who did he talk with?  Did the local rabbi advise him?  How did Joseph put it all together?  We don’t know.  We know only the outcome, that “he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took Mary as his wife.”

Maybe the ancients put more stock in dreams than many of us might, but my guess is that the dream did not make it a slam-dunk for Joseph.  Acting on the dream was a risk.  He might never know for sure whether he was right in trusting Mary’s story.  He might always wonder whether another unwelcome truth would come out.

It took faith for Joseph to move forward.  Faith is not primarily belief that something is so.  Faith is a relational movement of trust.  We entrust ourselves to another because we discern that the other is trustworthy.  Joseph decided to entrust his future to Mary’s story because he intuited that she was telling the truth.  Joseph’s own revelation resonated with Mary’s.  It seemed to come from God, and Joseph decided that he could trust God on this one.

It was not risk-free.  The life of faith never is, for faith is trust, not certainty.  Discerning signs, acting on signs, moving forward in God’s mission – it’s all risky.  There’s the risk of being wrong, and that happens.  There’s the risk of being right and still losing a great deal, and that happens too.

The Incarnation was God’s great risk.  If Jesus had failed in his trust, the very being of God would have been compromised.  It worked out.  God invites us now to trust.  And to risk.



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