The Rev. Peter A. Lane
I’m away for a couple of days in a little town called Montverde, near Orlando, to officiate at the wedding of Alex DiTommaso and Mike Noce. I’ve known Alex since she was a young girl in my parish in Hampton, NH. She and her sister used to babysit for my kids, and her grandfather, Doug Theuner, was my first bishop and ordained me a priest. And so it is a great joy to be gathering with her family and Mike’s for this happy occasion as they begin their life together as husband and wife, their whole life stretching out before them.
I’ve been thinking about all the choices a young couple face as they begin their married life. They’ve already made a big choice – who to marry. Then comes the when and the where and all the other smaller choices that go into planning a wedding. And that’s just the start of a life of shared decision-making – kids, careers, family needs – with every decision impacting all others!
Of course, we are thinking these days about another young couple beginning their life as husband and wife, their whole life stretching out before them as they travelled to their ancestral homeland to be registered in the Roman census. Mary and Joseph had already made some monumental decisions that shaped not just the rest of their lives but the very course of human history – no pressure there!
Scripture tells us that heavenly beings presented these choices to Mary and Joseph, and at least in Joseph’s case, played a major role in encouraging (pushing?) Joseph to make the right choice. I’m not aware of any choices that I’ve made in my life that have been either presented or influenced by a heavenly being but there have been plenty of them that have dramatically shaped the course of my life and the lives of many others (but not the course of human history!)
As I look back at the decisions I’ve made and the impact they’ve had, I’m also aware of a tremendous amount of grace that has always been present, even when the decision wasn’t made in the most thoughtful manner. As creatures imbued by God with agency, we have the assurance from God that a divine digit won’t be placed on the scale to tip our decision in one direction or another – the choice really is ours to make, for better or worse. But God also promises that through it all, God’s love and mercy will always surround us. Even when our decisions break the heart of God, God will not abandon us. God will walk with us as we live into the life our decisions have shaped for ourselves and for others.
And so, as we journey with Mary and Joseph towards Bethlehem, say a prayer for Alex and Mike as they embark on this new life together, already shaped by the decisions they’ve made, with so many more to come. And say a prayer for yourself and your loved ones and the decisions you all face as a normal part of daily life. But remember too, God’s promise – that whatever you decide, God’s love and mercy will never desert you. Like Mary and Joseph, we can walk into the unknown of tomorrow with the peace that surpasses all understanding.