29 December 2013

Living in the Hands of God

The example of St. Joseph is a beautiful confession of faith; and it is a good example, because the Lord our God, in whom he trusted, is faithful in His mercy and compassion, and in all His Words and promises, who has saved us from sin and death by His Son, the Child born of Mary.

Truth be told, appearances notwithstanding, it is the Lord who has you and your situation and all things in His hands, in His care and keeping.  Although you do have responsibilities, you are not in control of your life and your future.  Not really.  But neither are your enemies, no matter how big and strong and powerful they may be.

No, the Lord your God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth, He is the Author and Giver of Life, and He is the One who governs all of creation for the sake of His Church.  He accomplishes His purposes, in love, for the salvation of sinners, by His grace and mercy and forgiveness.  Not only “in spite of” those who oppose His will, but even through them, contrary to their own designs — He fulfills His Word and promises.

So, too, He guides and guards His faithful people — including St. Joseph and you — by and with His Word: As written by His Prophets and Apostles in His Holy Scriptures, and in the preaching of His Law and His Gospel by His messengers, whom He sends to speak to you in His Name.

All that He has spoken, He has fulfilled in the Person of Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, conceived and born of St. Mary.  As He is the Word of God made Flesh, He is the accomplishment of God’s good and gracious will: for you and for all people.

He is the promised Son of David, the Shoot of Jesse (in Hebrew, the Nazar of Jesse), anointed by the Spirit of His God and Father to be the King of the Jews, to rule and shepherd His people Israel, the sheep of His pasture.  And not for Israel and Judah only, but for all those who are the children of Abraham by faith in the Gospel.

He Himself, the Son of God and of St. Mary, is the Epitome of faith and trust in God His Father.  Of course, from all eternity He is of one substance with His Father, of one mind and one will, in and with the Holy Spirit: one God, now and forever.  But also in His own human flesh and blood, from His conception, even in His Mother’s womb, He is fully devoted to God with His whole heart and mind, His body, soul, and spirit.  His human will conforms entirely to the divine will, even to the point of His great anguish, suffering, and death upon the Cross.

In this, He has been consecrated and devoted to the Lord, much as the Nazarites were dedicated to the Lord by their vows and in their obedience.  In His case, it is not only for a set period of time, but with His entire body and life, and with His very flesh and blood, even unto death.

It is finally on the Cross that He is called the Nazarene.  For by His voluntary sacrifice, He fulfills the Scriptures of the Prophets, and He accomplishes the will of God for the salvation of the world.

His death and burial are on the horizon and anticipated from the beginning: So also in Herod’s persecution, and in the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.  But God His Father calls Him out of Egypt — as He will draw Him out of the Red Sea waters of His Baptism — and so does He call Him out of death and the grave.  This, too, is “according to the Scriptures,” just as we confess.  And in this Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead, God the Father also calls you out of death into Life, to be His beloved and well-pleasing son, by adoption and by grace.

He calls you by the preaching of His Word — to repentance and faith in His forgiveness of sins, and to newness of life in Christ Jesus.  He calls you, as He called St. Joseph, to live according to His Word within your vocation as a Christian, and within your own particular place here on earth.

Although it is true that neither you, nor your life, nor your future, are in your own hands — for they are in His — it is also the case that He accomplishes His purposes in you and through you, and He cares for others, including His Church on earth, by means of your faithful service.

Here, too, consider the example of St. Joseph, who quietly and quickly obeys the Word of the Lord in caring for his Bride, St. Mary, and for her Son, the Christ Child.  Such a task it is, and of such great importance!  But the Lord God provides for the Child and His Mother, and He preserves their lives, by the hand of His servant, St. Joseph.  He does the same for your neighbor by your hand, as you work and serve according to His Word.

As for St. Joseph, so also for you, the Word directs you in the darkness of night, in the midst of great danger, on paths of real difficulty.  The world hates you, as it hates the One whose Name you bear.  And the devil himself seeks your life more viciously than any King Herod.  In the face of all that, you have only the Word of the Lord to go by, and there are times when, like St. Joseph, you are afraid of the foes who reign so fiercely in the world.  The task set before you is too daunting, and yet, it is too important to fail.

But, now, get up and go!  Hear and heed the Word that God speaks to you by His Son.  Remember that you, and your journey, the outcome of your duties, and your destination, all are in the hands of Him who loves you.  God has guarded the Child with His Mother, and so does He guard and keep you.  He has been at work through St. Joseph, and He is now at work in you, to will and to do His good pleasure, for you and for your neighbors.

The guarantee is in Christ Jesus, who has been crucified for your transgressions, and, yes, who has been raised for your justification.  Out of Egypt God has called His Son — in order to bring about this great salvation.  Rachel, weep no more!  For He will surely bring you back from death into life, into the Land of Israel, even into Paradise the blest.  This promise is for you and for your children, and for your children’s children and their children yet unborn.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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