Don't Believe The Lies
There's a constant battle that's constantly taking place between the Church and the culture. And there's a lot of ways to describe that battle. But one of the bluntest ways to describe the battle is that the Church is saying, "Jesus is real." Okay? And that realness takes on many many forms. That realness expresses itself in many many ways. But one of the ways that we are constantly saying, "Jesus is real," is by placing him in history. Okay? And that's where this Sunday's gospel starts. It starts by placing Jesus in history.
What is the culture's position? The culture's position is essentially that Jesus is not real. We've made him up, He's a figment of Christian imagination. And like I said, that's a very blunt expression of the reality, but it is the reality. It is the tussle that's taking place constantly between Church and culture. Church is saying, "Jesus is real." But culture is saying, "You made him up." And they say it in different ways, and they say it in different degrees. But that is why when we read the Scriptures, the Scriptures are always placing Jesus in history. Okay? Always. Over and over and over again. And that's what we see in the Sunday's gospel. We see that Jesus had a mother and his mother's name was Mary. And she lived in a certain place in a certain time. And she had a community that she lived in and with. We see that Joseph became Mary's husband. Again, placing Jesus in a specific time in history. Not a figment of Christian imagination, not just made up, not a fairy tale. But at an actual place, in an actual time, Jesus comes into the world. And he comes into the world through Mary. And Joseph and Mary raise him.
Another thing we see in this Sunday's gospel is the goodness of Joseph, right? You think about these readings, sometimes we just read through them. Don't actually read them, we don't actually absorb them, we don't actually think about them. Really go into them. Okay. Now Mary is pregnant. And Joseph knows the child isn't his, okay? But Joseph does not want shame to be visited upon Mary. Okay? And Joseph takes Mary to be his wife. And just think about the circumstances. Take Jesus out of it, take history out of it, take all of that out. Just think about the circumstances, how many guys are going to do that? How many guys are going to do that? And how monumental, how magnanimous, how enormous is the goodness of Joseph? And we don't even have a one word from the guy. Not a single word. We don't. But he's just this quiet goodness, it's just this steadfastness, it's just this-- what else do we see in this Sunday's gospel? God speaks to us. Culture wants to convince you that God is distant, and anonymous, and impersonal, and that is a lie our God is a God who is present. Our God is a God who is named. Our God is a God who has revealed himself to us, which is the essence of intimacy, is self-revelation, mutual self-revelation. God has revealed himself to us. And he wants to know us. And he wants to know us in a deep way. And he speaks to us. And in this Sunday's gospel, he speaks to Joseph in his dream. Why? He could have spoken to him while he was awake. He spoke to him in his dream. Why did he do that? I don't know. What I do know is that when we go to sleep, our egos sort of let go, right? That's why we have crazy dreams. Our egos sort of let go and we can hear things and see things that perhaps we can't hear and see when we're awake and very, very guarded. When is the last time God spoke to you? When is the last time you really listened? When is the last time you said, "All right. Speak Lord. Your servant is listening"? When is the last time you had a dream? What do you think God might be saying to you through that dream? And then the reading ends essentially with this epic line in Matthew's gospel, "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son. And his name shall be Emmanuel, which means God is with us." God is with us. Do you feel his presence? Do you sense his presence? Do you just know he's present or does he feel far away at the moment? Does he feel distant? And what can you do to spend more time in His presence? I think very often we want God to come into our lives. But the reality is that we're being invited, constantly invited, into the heart, the mind, the life of God. We're being invited into his presence. And sometimes we have to go out of our way to spend some time in God's presence. So my challenge to you this week is really the original challenge because it's what changed my life. It's what got me started on this whole path, this whole adventure, this whole journey. I was 15 and a friend of my family's challenged me to stop by my church for 10 minutes each day and just sit with God. It changed my life. And it will change your life. When I started speaking and writing, I spoke about it every day, every night. I spoke about that. I challenged people, 10 minutes a day, go home, put a Post-it note on your mirror where you brush your teeth. Spend 10 minutes a day each day in the classroom of silence. And if you can stop by your church, stop by your church. My challenge to you today is stop by your church every day for the next week, just for 10 minutes. It will change your life, not maybe, guaranteed. You'll realize there is a difference between the days when you spend time in God's presence, intentionally, purposefully, joyfully and the days when you don't.