Summary: In Matthew 1 we read about the first Christmas, a story that begins in brokeness and ends in hope and promise. Just like our stories because of Christ’s grace and mercy!
Sermon 122409 Christmas Eve
Stone her to death! The thought popped into his head, but it didn’t last long. He could have said it out loud, he could have shouted it. It was his right to call for it after all. It was written right there in the 5th Book of Moses. Right in Deuteronomy. Obviously something had happened to his fiancée, she was pregnant, and not by him.
He was angry. But his anger wouldn’t last, it couldn’t last. Even though she was engaged to him. Even though she was no pregnant with another’s child. Even though the only conclusion he could logically come to was that she had been unfaithful, and broken the vow of engagement (much more binding than these days). Even though he had a RIGHT to punish her. What he had a right to do, was not as important as doing the right thing.
He was hurt, he was a broken man, he was mad. But he was still in love. And love doesn’t let go so easily. So Joseph, “being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” It was the only thing he could think to do in such a situation. They weren’t married, but in those days, being engaged was a legal binding thing. And they would need to be legally separated.
But even as he resolved to do what he thought was best, I can help but imagine that he kept thinking to himself, “How did this happen? How did we get here?” In his mind he could picture so clearly the first day he saw her and had the courage to go up and talk to her. He could feel his palm get clammy as he thought about the day he mustered the courage to go and talk to her dad and ask his blessing upon their engagement. The silly smile (awkward and shy) they gave each other when someone said, “I hope you have many, many children!” He even smiled when he thought about his buddies on the job site, and how much they chided him about not being able to concentrate on his work because he was thinking about Mary, and the marriage, and everything else.
Then, all at once, everything was broken. Everything was gone. His mind was a tangled mess of dreams, and plans, and hopes that would never be anything more than dreams, and plans, and hopes. It was all broken. And it all hurt so bad.
He would try to get some sleep. He’d go and talk to the Rabbi in the morning. “What mess!” he cried out in his lonely room. Then he laid his head down and the sharp edges of broken thoughts cut into his brain and into his sleep, but he managed to drift off somehow. But that night, Joseph would not be alone. An intruder, would break into his room, and into his life, and into his pain. An angel spoke to him in a holy dream: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Joseph’s mind grasped to make sense of it all, “This child was from God, from the Holy Spirit, wait, that means that this child is GOD!”
Then the Angel told him what to name this child, and what his mission will be: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” This Child will be called Jesus, Yeshua, GOD SAVES! This child is the Savior! The Messiah! As Joseph awoke, the words of Isaiah the prophet came flooding into his mind, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” (which means, God with us).”
The brokenness was gone. In its place was now profound awe and wonder. God with us! And he truly was. The same God who created the world in 6 days, the same God who walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, the same God who was with the children of Israel in the wilderness in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, the same God who physically filled the tabernacle, and the most holy place of the temple, was now really here. Really with them. Really growing inside Mary’s womb, right now!
My guess is that he ran to see her, and that she was surprised to see him. That she maybe even wasn’t so sure why he came. Was he going to call for her punishment, or send her away, or what? But Joseph didn’t do any of those things. He just said he believed her. He just did what he was commanded, and took her as his wife. And their journey together began.