By Robert Halsey Pine
“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” (Matthew 1:18-25 NRSV).
For a great part of my life, I questioned whether or not God communicates with us directly. As a child, I accepted the stories in the Bible as factual, just as I once accepted Santa Claus as a real person. As I grew up, Santa certainly dropped by the wayside as an older kid next door broke the bad news to me. In moving into adulthood, I began to wonder if the stories in the Bible about God speaking to people directly or through angels and the Holy Spirit were factual. We have an example here with an angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph in a dream, and of course this was precipitated by the angel Gabriel’s prior visit with Mary.
It is our human nature to question and doubt. Faith in God is hard for us to achieve. As I began to mature as a Christian and sought the Lord, my faith, my hope and my charity improved. On this journey of mine to come closer to God, I have had several experiences in which I am sure that God was communicating with me through the Holy Spirit. In two of these encounters, I perceived that God was speaking directly to me; the difference being that at other times I felt that God was influencing me. In these other encounters the messages were clear and unequivocal, and I experienced the presence of the Lord.
Although the ways of God remain a mystery to me, any doubts that I may have had about God’s ability and intention to communicate with his children are gone. I can identify with Joseph and Mary as God’s angels communicated with them. In a personal life-threatening situation in my life, God assured me of his love for me. At the same time he commanded me to share my experience with others, so that other doubters like myself would have faith through hope.
My story sounds like the Bible stories that I used to doubt. I can see more clearly how God is acting and has acted in the lives of His children. Mary and Joseph listened to God and helped in His commitment to be with us. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the message of God’s love for us eternally. When we open ourselves through faith and hope, we begin to understand. We must become the best listeners that we can be. There are some wonderful things that we need to hear. Listen carefully as Christ comes to us.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.