“Joseph woke up and did…..” Matthew 1:24
“Rugby? Just curious, why did you play college rugby?” I asked.
Standing next to me was 24 year old Deja, a recent graduate from Montclair State University in New Jersey. She’s been part of our ministry since the age of 10.
In three decades of working with youth in Camden, I can’t recall any alumni playing rugby. Rugby conjures images of burly, British, bearded guys, clad in striped shirts, playing a soccer/football-like game with indiscriminate violence, cussing, and blood.
“Growing up at UrbanPromise people asked me to do things I’d never done before. I started saying, “Sure, why not!” Deja shared.
“When the Trekker staff asked me to go canoeing in the Pine Barrens, I said, ‘Sure, why not!”
“When Tony asked me to join a poetry team and travel to other states and compete, I said, ‘Sure, why not!”
“When Alyshe asked me to participate in a girls’ group and the More than A Beauty Contest, I said, “Sure, why not!”
“Every time I said “Sure, why not!” to something new and unknown, good things happened. I grew as a person. My confidence expanded. I carried that philosophy with me to college.”
So when a representative of the women’s rugby team approached Deja during freshman orientation she responded, you guessed it, “Sure, why not!”
“It was one of the best decisions of my college career,” she reminisced. “Made great friends and learned perseverance and grit.”
The Christmas story picks up this theme with a young groom placed in an unenviable and difficult predicament—especially within his social and religious context. Joseph needs to make a decision. It’s a choice between common sense and folly.
His bride Mary is “found to be with child.” Since their marriage act lacked consummation, suspicion of infidelity is the only logical conclusion. In this patriarchal society, scales of justice tilt to favor the male. If Joseph wants to save face, he can employ the laws of his day, publicly embarrass Mary and release the legal machine to advance her execution.
But Joseph‘s a decent guy, determined to dissolve the engagement “quietly”. Common sense sets his course in action. His decision will protect their families, save Mary from embarrassment and allow them to quietly move ahead with their lives in separate directions. One problem: common sense is not always God’s way.
“Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife,” says God in a dream. “Because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” What? Because of a dream, Joseph now is asked to change his thoughtful, prudent course of action. Joseph’s about to risk his whole adult career on the basis of a nocturnal prompting. Sound a little risky?
Joseph’s decision shapes history. Some will disagree with me. Many believe Joseph’s choices have no real consequences—he’s just some puppet in a divine drama. I disagree: Joseph has full agency. His choice ignites a series of events leading to a history-altering outcome. When faced with an unconventional, nonsensical choice, Joseph essentially says, “Sure, why not!”
And this saying, “Sure, why not!” to God’s voice is a unifying theme throughout the Christmas story. Whether it’s Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, Simeon, the shephards, or the Magi—at every turn there’s someone saying, “Sure, why not!” to God. In this vulnerable act of saying yes, ordinary people make way for the birthing of something new, extraordinary and wonderful.
This can be our story as well. Advent doesn’t begin and end with Christmas.
Advent is a lifestyle of opening hearts and lives to the promptings of God. It’s certainly been my observation.
Whether birthing an after school program in Little Rock’s inner city, a feeding program in Uganda, a home for abandoned girls in Malawi, a boat-building mission for kids in Camden, an elementary school in Liberia, or a computer literacy center in Kenya—there is usually a person responsible who said, “Sure, why not!” to God.
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