Summary: Joseph and Mary show us how we are to respond to God when He interrupts our plans.
A Sunday School teacher once asked her class of children: “What is Christmas a time for?” Many of the kids gave the usual answers – Jesus’ birthday, a time of joy, presents…but one child responded with a unique and unusual answer, “Christmas is a time for sportsmanship.” “Sportsmanship?” asked the teacher.” “Yeah, sportsmanship because it’s like when you lose a game. Sometimes you don’t get what you wanted but you still have to grin and pretend it’s alright.”
This morning, as we continue our look at the beginnings of Jesus’ ministry, we’ll see how Mary and Joseph handled a gift that was probably one they didn’t really want. And as we do that we’ll get some insight into how that impacted Jesus’ life and what it means for us as His followers.
Let’s begin in the gospel of Luke. Turn to chapter 1 and follow along as I begin reading in verse 26:
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:26-38 (ESV)
Not surprisingly Luke provides us with Mary’s perspective on these events which preceded the birth of Jesus. This is consistent with his focus on the humanity of Jesus which is often seen through the eyes of the women in Jesus’ life.
We should also not be surprised that Matthew provides us with Joseph’s perspective of some related events that are occurring at about the same time. So go ahead and turn with me to Matthew’s gospel and follow along as I read from chapter1 beginning with verse 18:
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “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. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)
Before we’re able to begin to draw some practical principles from these passages, a bit of background is needed.
Jewish wedding customs at the time of Jesus’ birth were much different than what we are familiar with today. A prospective bridegroom would travel from his father’s house to the home of the prospective bride where he would negotiate a bride price with the father of the bride to be. Once the price was agreed upon a marriage covenant was established and it was sealed by the woman drinking from a cup of wine that was offered to her by the man. That began the betrothal period and from that time forward the man and woman were considered to be married and the relationship could only be ended by divorce.