Did you hear about the guy who was walking down the street feeling very sad and lonely? Suddenly a voice came out of nowhere and said, “Cheer up. Things could be worse.” So he cheered up. Sure enough, things got worse.
That’s a variation of Murphy’s Law. Remember Murphy’s law? “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.” I heard of a few extensions of Murphy’s Law.
There is Murphy’s Mechanical Repair Law. It states: After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will start to itch.
Murphy’s Theater Law: At any show, the people whose seats are farthest from the aisle arrive last.
Murphy’s Driving Law: If you change traffic lanes, the one you were in will always move faster than the one you are now in.
Well, I think in today’s gospel, Joseph may have figured that something like Murphy’s Law was at work. Joseph was planning on having a nice wedding, and all of a sudden Mary is pregnant. All plans went down the drain. “Whatever could go wrong, went wrong.” However, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him everything was going to be okay. In effect, the angel said, “Mary has been chosen for a special mission. And you are an important part of it. Do not be afraid.”
Once he learned what was happening, Joseph was no longer afraid. The angel reassured him that the child shall be called Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us,” implying “God will be with you too, Joseph. You will be able to handle everything.”
I suspect Joseph then cheered up – and then things got worse. Only now he knew he could handle it. First, according to the gospel of Luke, he and Mary had to make a journey to Bethlehem for the census. Then there was no room for them in any inn, so they became like the homeless and had to settle for a stable. Then, because of Herod, they became like refugees and had to flee to Egypt. And later, they could not return to Bethlehem because of Archelaus ruling there, so they went to Nazareth.
St. Paul would later write to the Romans, “for those who love God all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).” Joseph is one strong example of trust in Emmanuel, that God is with us and things will work out.
A second thought: Words… When we pray we often use lots of words. Prayer is a conversation with God. We say words like, “Help us,” “Thank you,” “Holy, holy, holy.” Yes, we use lots of words when we pray.
There is one very important word that we need to use often when we pray. That one very important word is, “Yes.”
Mary and Joseph show us the way. When Mary was asked by the angel Gabriel to be the mother of Jesus, what did she say? “Yes.” When Joseph was told in a dream to take Mary as his wife, what did he say? “Yes.”
Throughout our life God will ask us to do many things. Our response is to be like Mary and Joseph and say, “Yes.”
God tells us to speak the truth, so we say, “Yes.”
God tells us to be kind, so we say, “Yes.”
God tells us to protect human life, so we say, “Yes.”
God tells us to take care of the Earth, so we say, “Yes.”
God tells us to serve others, so we say, “Yes.”
At Mass we say a resounding, “YES!” We place ourselves on the altar and, with Christ, offer our life to God. We say, in effect, “Yes, Father, I offer myself to you. I come to do whatever you want.” Saying, “Yes” to God will be like a star guiding us all throughout our life.
Mary and Joseph are saints because they always said, “Yes,” to God. Let us ask for the strength to always say, “Yes,” to God. By doing so, like Mary and Joseph, we become Christ bearers. We bring Christ to others. We bring love to others. And we help them experience Christmas all year long.