Simply put, our salvation is not exclusively dependent on the divine initiative in the sense that we are completely passive recipients of this salvation. God saves humanity only through their cooperation and fidelity.
It is quite difficult to think of a God who is almighty and powerful yet humble in many ways. As human beings we tend to traverse our existence by desiring to be in control of everything. We also want to be powerful at the expense of the innocent and ordinary people. Wielding power and position seems to be what gives meaning to our lives. Or else having these is the solution that we so much need.
Our gospel this Sunday is leading us to see another perspective–how God’s plan become acceptable through his dealings that are beneficial to us as seen in the characters involved in the story of Jesus’ birth. Unlike Isaiah, John the Baptist, Mary and even the Wise Men and the Shepherds, Joseph is not a towering Advent figure. He only took the embarrassing role of taking Mary’s child that is not his. The most logical thing to do was to divorce Mary because he knew that he will not be able to publicly show the “token of virginity” (Deut 22:13-21) on his wedding night. Of course, as an honorable man, divorcing Mary quietly was an act of hope that the rightful father will seize the opportunity to claim the child and marry her.
So God through an angel had to explain to Joseph that Mary is pregnant by a spirit that is holy and made an appeal to him to take Mary as his wife and into his home. Joseph could have rejected the proposal because his human right and and his male ego have been trampled upon. But Joseph is also a servant of the Lord. He said “yes” in faith to his own annunciation of God’s will.
Prior to Joseph, God needed to deal with Mary also who even questioned God’s plan: “how can this be since I have no relation with a man? “(Lk 1:34). In the same way with Joseph, God had to explain and even convince Mary, through the angel Gabriel, before she said “yes” to God’s plan. Mary could have replied otherwise because of her situation. She was already betrothed to Joseph. She knew the immediate consequence of her decision – shameful death.
In both instances, God had to negotiate with Joseph and Mary for the birth of Jesus, the Emmanuel. This life and history-changing act of the God of love is done in the spirit of humility. God presented and submitted his plan to human freedom for cooperation and participation even when this plan was for the salvation of the human family and the rest of creation. Simply put, our salvation is not exclusively dependent on the divine initiative in the sense that we are completely passive recipients of this salvation. God saves humanity only through their cooperation and fidelity.
The birth of the Emmanuel, the “God with us” is the embodiment of a humble God in our midst. In and through humility, the love of God is made manifest.