Advent 4: Joseph And The Walk Of Faith

Lectionary Readings for December 22, 2013:
Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7,17-19; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25
Advent Calendar (Cycle A) and guidance for using the lectionary

“Sooner or later, if we follow Christ we have to risk everything in order to gain everything. We have to gamble on the invisible and risk all that we see and taste and feel. But we know the risk is worth it, because there is nothing more insecure than this transient world.” —Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

The greatest story ever told begins with a real moral dilemma: Mary was betrothed to Joseph and they had maintained a chaste relationship when she was found pregnant. What’s a man to do?

When we are under pressure, our true character is revealed and this was certainly true for Joseph. In the midst of what he perceived as a profound betrayal, subjecting Mary to public scandal was not in him. From his good heart, Joseph decided to dismiss her quietly rather than claiming his right as an injured husband. But grace was at work in Joseph’s situation, and God sent an angel to tell him the truth about Mary, to calm his inner turmoil, and to give him the wisdom to know what to do.

Joseph had a plan—to put Mary away quietly—and it was a good plan. But it was still a plan based solely on a human perspective. The walk of faith required Joseph to wake up, to see his situation in the light of what God was doing, and to change his approach accordingly. He had to relinquish his own plan in order to respond to God’s plan as it was unfolding in the midst of this human drama.

When we start to see more clearly what the walk of faith requires, we are faced with a choice—the choice to say yes or no to what God has clearly indicated is ours to do. Paul calls this “the obedience of faith.”  But knowing the will of God is not enough; doing it is what matters.

Sometimes we wish that we could take the journey of faith without it ever requiring real faith; however, Joseph’s story reveals that the walk of faith will require something of us, and probably more than we think we are capable of. Yet it also tells us that as we say yes to walking in the light of God’s purposes, we too can find our place in the greatest story ever told—God’s story lived in and through our simple existence. We, too, can experience the coming of the Divine into our hearts and lives—God with us—and call his name Jesus.

God of all wisdom, whose ways are beyond my own, show me the limitations of relying on my own plans. Help me wake up to what you are inviting me to—a crazy step of faith, a sweet surrender, an act of blind trust. Like Joseph, give me the courage to follow you in the obedience of faith—wherever it may lead—for it is you I trust. Amen.


©Ruth Haley Barton. 2013. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Ruth Haley Barton (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founder of the Transforming Center. A teacher, spiritual director, and retreat leader, she is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Pursuing God’s Will Together, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, and Invitation to Solitude and Silence.

If you are joining us for week 4, you might want to also access other eReflections in this Advent series:
Read A Different Kind of Calendar
Read Advent 1—The Importance of Waking up
Read Advent 2—Joyful Preparations
Read Advent 3—Gifts in the Wilderness

How is God inviting you to walk in the light of the Lord and take courageous steps in your own journey of faith this Advent season?

Leave a comment.

Ruth Haley Barton

Ruth (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is Founder and Chief Essence Officer of the Transforming Center. A teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader, Ruth is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Invitation to Retreat, and Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest (Oct 2022).
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Join thousands of pastors and spiritual leaders

Receive Beyond Words®, reflections on the soul of leadership. Written by Ruth Haley Barton, each reflection provides spiritual guidance and encouragement for those seeking to be in God for the world.