when we know that God is calling us to do something. It might be God
telling us to do our errands today in a certain way because it is honest and
fair, or it might be God telling us to speak a word of encouragement to a
friend. I think our days are filled with those little moments.
But there are also big moments when God is calling us to do something.
Perhaps God is calling you into a new profession maybe even pastoral ministry,
or God is calling you to take a bigger role in a ministry with the homeless, or
you hear God leading you to work with youth or children in the community.
Saying yes to these types of callings involves significant life changes, and so
it isn’t easy to decide what to do.
On one side you could probably summarize
most of the biblical stories with the simple question, “did they say yes or
no to God?” Think about it. Noah says yes to God, saved from flood. Abraham and
Sarah say yes to God and have a child they really wanted. Pharaoh says no to
God, and plagues strike all over the place. Moses says yes to God, leads people
out of slavery in Egypt. Jonah says no to God, gets swallowed by a whale. David
says yes to God, kills Goliath. David then says no to God and ends up in a
civil war with his own son.
But each of the yeses also comes at a cost. Noah spends a lot of time and
money building that ark, collecting animals, and wondering if it really is
going to rain. Abraham and Sarah say yes to having a child, but it causes
conflict with Abraham’s older son and the family ends up breaking apart. Moses
says yes to God, but for 40 years leads this group of whining and complaining
people around in the desert. Saying yes to God doesn’t mean life will be easy.
The Christmas story is no different really.
Mary says yes to God and a great miracle begins to take place, the messiah
begins to grow and develop in her womb. But she faces the scorn of others, in
particular her betrothed, Joseph. It took courage for her to say yes to God. So
we often praise Mary for her willingness to go along with God’s plan as well we
But Joseph also is
confronted with choosing to participate or not. And sometimes we ignore his
side of the story. You see, when Mary announced her pregnancy, Joseph probably
felt a lot of emotions and had a lot of questions. Who did she do this with?
Why? Could he ever trust her? He had to be angry, maybe be ashamed. With all of
that going on in his head and heart, it would not have been unusual at that
time for him to make a public spectacle of her – perhaps even have her stoned
“As he was thinking
about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream.” The angel then
explains God’s plan, and invites Joseph to take his part in it. And now Joseph
has to decide. Is he going to say yes to God, or not? [pause] if this were a
movie, there would be a huge dramatic moment with flashbacks and tearstained
faces as Joseph contemplated the decision, and I would try to keep you in
tension for several minutes without telling you his decision. But you already
know the story, so that won’t work.
We know that Joseph
then does say yes, and in our bible passage for the day he even does the
fatherly job of naming Jesus. So we know he not only accepted Mary, and decided
to stay married to her, but he also took on the role and duties of being Jesus’
However, you know
people still looked at him and judged him for it. There were those who said,
“He’s got to be the father. Who on earth would believe this story these two
came up with. Nudge, nudge.” Then there were others who wondered, “If he’s not
the father, he’s an idiot for believing her story. He should have walked away.”
He faced scorn from others for being either a liar or a fool simply by saying
yes to God.
For Joseph, although
the end result is incredible and wonderful, the Messiah coming on earth; the
process is difficult along the way.
This is true for us
in our lives too.
God often calls us
to wonderful and incredible things, but to get there we have to go through
places filled with questions and painful emotions. The call may come at awkward
times, when we are unprepared and life has hurt us. We may find ourselves
angry, ashamed, not able to trust others, and untrusted by others. And God
says, follow me. When we do, people may judge us harshly, all because God asks
us to go to a place that is unpopular, or where people get the wrong
“There was a true
story of a new pastor who went to visit a prospective church member who lived
next door to a bar. The apartment that the man lived in shared a hallway and
entrance to a bar. One day the new pastor went into the apartment through the
bar entrance and visited the man in the upstairs apartment. A couple of ladies
who were home were watching outside their apartment window and saw the pastor
“An hour or so
later, they saw him come out of the bar and apartment door entrance, but he was
having a hard time walking. The women thought that the new pastor had just gone
into the bar and was drunk when he came out and told others about this. When
the story got back to the pastor, who was asked to explain himself, he said
that he had just visited a prospective new church member in his apartment, but
when he came downstairs, he turned his ankle and couldn’t walk very well. No
one had given the new pastor the benefit of the doubt and thought the worst
when that was not the case at all. In fact, he was doing what he was called to
Jesus tells us that in following him, we will be taking up our cross – what
he means by that is that in following God there are costs, ways that we will
suffer, we may even end up putting our lives on the line. But that is what it
means to be a follower of God. Saying yes to God involves difficulties. We have
to understand that.
But here is the
When we choose to
say yes to God – although we face those difficulties, we also get to
participate in the very life of Christ in the world – just as Joseph did. Joseph
may have had people say all sorts of things about him, but he got to hold the
son of God. He got to name him. He got to enjoy those childhood moments like
wrestling, and playing chase. He got to watch with pride as Jesus grew in
wisdom and began to teach others.
When we say yes to God we also get to witness Christ coming to life in the
world. You see in those moments, Christ
lives in us, God works through us, we become agents of the sacred and saving
work of God. We may be unpopular, we may be misunderstood or judged.
I can’t say what the challenges for you may be, or where God is calling
you, and what difficulties that may lead to. But I can tell you that when you
say yes to God, the treasures you gain far surpass the troubles you face. You
become part of the story of God, where God’s salvation becomes reality. Even if
you sacrifice your very life, you become a part of the eternal yes, the
heavenly host who continually cheer as those on earth strive to build the
kingdom of God on earth. And you get to see Christ.
That’s what Joseph knew, and it is how he stands to encourage us today to
say yes. Face peril or prison, insult or assault, and courageously serve the
God of hope. It is worth it.
from Jack Wellman, Pastor of Mulvane Brethren Church