Summary: What is your picture of the perfect Christmas? Beautiful decorations, lovely family, delicious food, well-selected gifts, children that know how to behave! How many of us really have a Christmas like that?
What is your picture of the perfect Christmas? Beautiful decorations, lovely family, delicious food, well-selected gifts, children that know how to behave!
How many of us really have a Christmas like that? No matter how hard we try Christmas has it’s messes and imperfections. If any Christmas should have been the perfect Christmas, the FIRST one should have been … but reality interferes. The account of the birth of Jesus Christ is multi-layered and filled with mystery. The details are scandalous and messy.
The focus of Matthew’s account is on Joseph, so today we will think about Joseph’s Jesus story. Joseph is one of the quiet heroes of the Bible. Little is known. A Jewish carpenter of Nazareth who “is known to us only as a dim figure in the background of the Gospel narratives.” He disappears early in the account of Christ. Even so, he is a man who is presented as a righteous man. This account is focused on the human element of the story. Joseph is a sympathetic figure in this account. His humanity is on full display as he is placed in the decidedly uncomfortable position of having a fiancé with whom he has not slept, announce she is pregnant. His dedication to the law, his awareness of the gossip of the community, his initial reaction – all tell us this was a messy and complicated story. It’s like our real Christmas … not the one we dream of having … but the one that we end up with.
Matthew 1:18-25 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Joseph’s Jesus Story is one of relating to us … and that’s where he ends… Immanuel, God With Us. Joseph’s Jesus Story Reminds Us…
1. God Is With Us
There are no recorded words of Joseph, there was inner turmoil. He was faithful to the law. This problem would have to be dealt with in God’s way. As we read the law, it seems that Mary would be stoned (was this widely practiced in Joseph’s day? He was in love. He did not want to expose her to public disgrace. This demonstrates the great love he had for young Mary. She was a perfect candidate to be the mother of the Messiah and I would think that her qualities also made her a perfect candidate to be a wonderful wife. There was something kind in Joseph described here… something that prevented him from an episode of anger and revenge. He loved her. God’s presence in this difficult situation helped Joseph be the man he needed to be. Immanuel means “God with us” … and this is what gives us the strength to make it through our difficult times.
Henri Nouwen – “…I feel that we should continually avoid the temptation of despair and deepen our awareness that God is present in the midst of all the chaos that surrounds us and that that presence allows us to live joyfully and peacefully in a world so filled with sorrow and conflict.”
Joseph’s Jesus story depended on a God who was with him.
2. God Gives Choices.
Joseph was kind. He wanted to divorce her quietly. I am not sure how this could have happened – they were already in the betrothal process. It was not a secret that they were to be married, nor would a pregnancy remain secret for long. Human beings are known for sharing the news of others, good or bad. But if Jospeh had his way, he would keep it to himself. Joseph trusted in spite of fear. The angel told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. Was he afraid she had been unfaithful and might be so again? Was he afraid of the social pressure that may have existed – to either get rid of Mary or forever be known as the one who took on an unfaithful bride? But Joseph did not let fear win out. We have choices in difficult situations – how we treat others, how we face our fears. Joseph was a great example in his Jesus Story.