Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Waiting with Joseph
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the Dec. 7, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”
Once again, these words echo throughout the season of Advent. Just as “Silent Night” champions the heart and soul of the Christmas season, the Advent song, “Emmanuel,” encapsulates the patient waiting mood of the Advent season. No counting the shopping days before Christmas here. The waiting of the coming of Emmanuel – the name means “God is with us” – speaks to the cadence of the waiting human heart. Waiting in need for the satisfaction of inner hunger; waiting in need for the completion of life’s journey; waiting in need for freedom from selfishness and sin. Indeed, O God, send us someone to save us.
In the wait which prepares for the feast of Christmas, we join with all those who have and do wait for the grace of life to burst upon them. We wait for the reality of God’s love to touch and transform our lives. For the contemporary man or woman whose life responds to the flick of computer keys, waiting is a difficult mode of existence. For us, life often is just not fast enough. (Look at our impatience with traffic or the drive-in window attendant.) We seem to be in a mad to rush to get somewhere. But often our computerized fingers speed past our hearts, leaving our hearts with an ache they often ignore, misunderstand, or stuff deep away.
During this Advent season, Joseph of Nazareth may well be our source of inspiration. In more ways than we realize, he is much like a good number of us. As a youth, he probably was full of hope and dreams about his future. He probably worked hard at his carpentry business to get ahead. The business itself was an indication of his middle-income social status. A typical man of his age, he undoubtedly dreamed of that day when the village matchmaker would set him up with some gorgeous maiden. Then would come the family (2.6 children), togetherness and a bright future for all. Just wait....
A Jew by religious affiliation, Joseph professed a belief in the coming of the Messiah. He undoubtedly even prayed for the coming of the Lord’s anointed. And he waited. But then the waiting was not all that deliberate, unless he chose to make it so. After all, the Jewish community had waited for centuries – for centuries! – for the coming of the Messiah. And no star was on the horizon.
Waiting when there is no obvious action in town is difficult. It easily becomes pro forma. Even when celebrated in religious ritual, the wait does not move and change. Like any one of us, Joseph most likely just went about his own life. Even if we picture him as a man of deep faith, his expectation probably was not that the Messiah would come in his lifetime. And certainly the Holy One of Israel would not engage the likes of him in such a momentous event. God spare him, in any case! Joseph had his own plans.
Right when everything seemed to be falling into place according to plan – matchmaker and all – the waiting really came to an end. For Joseph and for all of Israel. For all of humankind.
Centuries later we find ourselves captured by another season of waiting – or shopping. The choice is ours. Obviously, we do not wait for the coming of the Messiah. Joseph’s wife, Mary, has given birth to our Savior, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Our waiting is different, but it is still waiting: waiting for the final completion of Christ’s salvation in us; waiting for our identity and that of Jesus to become one; waiting for the awesomeness of the Word Incarnate to strike us with its transforming power; waiting for Christ to come into our celebration of Christmas. Like Joseph of old, we all have our plans, our dreams, and our hopes for the future. Like him, we expend a lot of energy to make it all happen.
This Advent season can act as a reminder that our plans are nothing if they are not made in God. Perhaps God has something else in store for us, beyond our personal aspirations. The grace of waiting is not in the anticipation of the expected, but in the openness of heart to – whatever... What does God have in store for you or me this time ‘round?
(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)
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