Sunday, 18 December 2016

Love is inclusive not exclusive

In the readings from this the fourth Sunday of Advent, just prior to the actual incarnation we have Isaiah's prophesy and Matthew's description of that fulfilled (Is. 7.14; Matt. 1.23).  Of course we have the problem of the virgin versus the young woman in the translation and interpretation but lets leave that aside for the present.  The implication is here that the incarnation of God is prophesied and fulfilled within a cultural context which is filled with innuendo and shame.  Shame for Joseph and the family as a result of accepting a 'virgin' / young girl who is already pregnant for his wife. This culture will put away the woman in disgrace to be ostracised for life; hidden away from family, friends and culture; a leper who has no leprosy.

Only by loving do we accept the other.

In an extraordinary turn around from the expected ostracisation by a community we have an acceptance, yes of God's presence (a given), of a person in their own right and for who they are not or who they appear to be.  Our focus is so often on the fact that Joseph is spoken to or that their is an intervention but is this really the issue here.  All that happens is that Joseph is given all the facts, God does not make Joseph sign up all he does is give the man the facts.  The decision is always Joseph's to make.  Just think of the bigoted way in which we think today and place ourselves in Joseph's shoes.  What would our decision be?  Quite honestly, if we take away all our sanctimonious attitudes, I suspect that we would not make the decision that Joseph made.  The difference is that today we are influenced by media, by the greater community and by the politics that surround us each and every day.  It is not the well being of the person that comes to mind first but rather our standing and political face in the community.  We only have to look at the political attitudes towards those who seek asylum and the ground swell of nationalistic rhetoric to see that this is true.

If we today act out of our political presence in the world what does Joseph act out of?  The political pressures where still there and in some ways they were as horrendous, if not more so, for a village carpenter.  Yet, Joseph acts with compassion towards someone who is likely to be shamed and placed in the shadows.  He acts towards the person and with the person in mind, not towards the political sense of the community.  In looking at our interactions within our parish and within our daily lives are we ready to do the same as we draw towards the incarnation?  How can we tell whether our decisions are based on compassion or on political gain?  Do we sometimes or always err on the side of caution and fail to make the connection between our decision and the well being of our community?

To act as Joseph did is to act with a deep understanding of the other.  To make decisions with compassion is to make decisions that are deeply centred in love.  Love that Joseph shows is a love that does not bow to power, politics or opinion and yet it is a love that shares everything openly. In not sharing we ultimately deny love for political gain.  In not being open with our knowledge, insights, wisdom and in not listening to others we are not operating out of love.  We demand these things for ourselves and then neglect to reciprocate.  God gave his trust to Joseph operating out of love, hoping that Joseph would commit himself to the same having been given an example.  We acknowledge and see God's love abounding in scripture and around us in our lives.  A love that shares and is one with the other.  A love that seeks the well being of all not just of one.  A love that will weather the storms of scandal and upset without losing sight of the other. The love that we accept is a love that is totally inclusive, it is not petty thinking only of self, it is not greedy thinking only of gain, it does not shun or put others into categories to be ignored.  If we do not get our way do we throw a tantrum or do we accept all in love resting in the grace of hope, faith and joy?   In approaching the incarnation can we let go and let love guide our ways?

No comments: