Welcome to the third Simbang Gabi, or as I have called it at the start of the Simbang Gabi, these nine days novena masses are a Christmas academy. In this academy, we shall go back to the original Christmas story and discover the true meaning of Christmas so as to prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus into our lives and our world.
The Christmas story has plenty of annunciation stories. Annunciation is the story of God choosing certain people, usually ordinary, uninfluential and poor. They were chosen since their birth to participate in Missio Dei, God’s mission. Annunciation is God’s story of breaking the good news to chosen people about Missio Dei, God’s plan and dream for humanity and the whole cosmos.
All of us have our own annunciation story. For each of us were chosen by God for a mission in this world. No one is born in this world without a purpose, a mission and a calling. Like the characters in the Christmas story, our deepest calling is to participate in the Missio Dei. Through the inspiration of the characters that we will encounter during these Simbang Gabi, may we discover our true calling that comes from God.
The most famous annunciation story of all time is that of Mary which we will read in the gospel of the 5th Simbang Gabi. In the gospel today, we will hear the annunciation story of Joseph.
Like Mary’s story, Joseph’s story is vital to the Christmas story. Without Joseph’s cooperation, our Christmas story will be incomplete.
So what can we learn from Joseph’s annunciation story?
We don’t hear much about St. Joseph in the Bible. He is simply described as the “husband of Mary,” a “carpenter,” and a “just man” in the Gospel accounts. Neither his age nor his death is ever mentioned in scripture.
Joseph is the silent character in the bible, never said a word, but always did the right thing. As they say, a man of few words. Joseph was the perfect example of the saying: Action speaks louder than words.
Joseph was a true gentleman. A true gentleman never leaves his woman. I know of men who so love their woman. But when their woman got pregnant, suddenly the big burden of responsibility dawned upon them, they become terribly scared and pathetically, abandon their woman.
Joseph became terribly scared and confused too but he never abandoned Mary. Joseph was faced with a horrific dilemma. He discovered that Mary to whom he is already betrothed but with whom he has not consummated their relationship in marriage, is already pregnant. There could be only one explanation; she had been unfaithful and was having another man’s child. It was a very serious matter and, if brought out into the open, would have made Mary liable to death by stoning.
As a righteous man and devout follower of the Mosaic Law, he would want to break the union with someone who had seriously broken the Law. And yet, because he was such a good man, he did not want to expose Mary to a terrible punishment. Few men would accept such a situation with such calmness and self-restraint. Most would find it a terrible blow to their manhood.
It is at this point that God announced to Joseph the true situation of Mary. God assured Joseph that no other man is involved, that she has conceived through the power of God’s Spirit. Joseph, without saying a word, accepted God’s explanation. More importantly, Joseph accepted God’s invitation to enter into the Missio Dei and become part of the dream and mission of God for humanity.
Joseph was a dreamer. Joseph had big dreams for himself and Mary. But when Mary and God’s dream intertwined with his own dream, Joseph did not allow his own dreams to prevail over and above the dream of Mary and the dream of God for him. Joseph the dreamer, found a way to integrate his own dream with God’s dream and Mary’s dream.
What is your dream? How do you see your dream a part of God’s bigger dream for you and for the whole world?
Joseph was the faithful husband and father. He obeyed the angel’s advice to go to Egypt when Herod decided to kill all newborn male babies in Israel. And he raised the boy child Jesus through hard work and dedication.
Joseph’s story is that he was able to go beyond his own world. He understood the meaning of his life beyond himself. He was able to transcend his own needs, his own desires, his own ambitions and connect them with the greater mission that God has in store for him. And because of this he became great. If Joseph left Mary and decided not to fulfil the invitation of the angel, he is forgotten forever.
We are called to be the new Joseph’s in our times today. God is inviting us out of our own small world in order to engage and connect with others for a greater purpose other than our own ambitions, plans and desires. Like Joseph may we see our lives in the greater interconnection of our lives with the life of God through the incarnation of Jesus. Lock in our own world we can achieve little. But connected with each other and with God we can do great things.
As we come closer to the birthday of Jesus, let us be like Joseph in welcoming the birth of Jesus in our lives, in our world!
The Christmas story continues … Abangan ang susunod na kabanata, bukas! (watch out for the next chapter tomorrow).
Here is the schedule of Simbang Gabi at the Baclaran Shrine (Philippine Time). All Simbang Gabi masses at the shrine, both evening and early morning, are streamed live. Click this link to watch and listen to the Simbang Gabi at the shrine.