And then there’s the story that God tells.
In the case of Joseph, there was an angel in a dream in the fitful sleep he had after he had arrived at his decision.
“Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
And Joseph wakes up. He brings her to the house, to the room that he has been preparing for her, for them.
The angel in the dream addresses that point between his heart and his tradition. He was afraid to bring her home, afraid of all that it mean. Afraid that he’d been betrayed. Afraid that someone else was better. Afraid that he would lose his reputation, that they would have no reputation.
But this? This was pretty amazing. And completely inexplicable.
He brings her quietly, probably, with none of the pageantry of the traditional wedding feast, a party that included the celebration of the faithfulness of the bride.
The story that God tells is often different that the romantic sentimental stories that we want, that we look for, that we are disappointed to not receive.
We want the great retirement. We get the stroke six weeks after we are done with our work.
And my dad who had worked in ministry for his whole life now has to listen more than he can speak. And has conversations with a guy who fixes cars. Across time, the guy sees Jesus in a man who struggles to speak. And across time, the guy meets Jesus and a wife and a baby.
We want a life that’s perfect because we do what we think God says for us to do. We get chaos and cancer and floods and job changes and deaths. Just like people who don’t do what God says for us to do.
God still tells the most remarkable stories.
Because there never was a promise that Mary and Joseph and Jesus would have a nice house and a nice family and a nice business and a nice town. There was the promise that he would save people from their sins. Which apparently included living a life of a political refugee, a homeless man, a rejected man, a murdered man.
But a man who kept the promise and lives and understands and comforts and saves us.
Sometimes, as we let go of the story we want, we can let go of the false disappointment of the story we get. And we can begin to listen for the story God is telling. And in the difficulty and challenges, we also find, in time, forgiveness and freedom and meaning.
And that, more than lunar landers and tinsel is what Christmas is about.