“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.”
Joseph has some amazing dreams; angels speak to him and in his faithfulness, Joseph listens to the directions of the angel and takes on the role he is asked to take on. As we begin to turn the corner in Advent and look toward Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus, it is important that we do not lose sight of the promises to us and all of creation that Jesus will come again. It is also important for us to remember that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us; and he is with us, and Matthew says at the end of his gospel, Jesus promises to be with us until the end of the age.
It’s easy to get caught up in the Christmas part of the story because we know it so well; but it is important for us to see just how amazing the story is.
Our evangelist, Matthew, has many concerns as he tells the story of Jesus. He calls Jesus the Son of David and is extremely careful to trace Jesus’ lineage to David through Joseph. Joseph takes on the role of earthly step father willingly once the angel tells him who this child is. Throughout Matthew’s gospel, he ties Jesus to the sacred text of the Jews, but also makes clear that Jesus is the messiah for the whole world, not just for the people of Israel. The angel’s words to Joseph to “not be afraid” are almost ridiculous given the situation; they all were in danger if anyone found out that Mary was pregnant; but it is the faith of Joseph that keeps them safe. Given that Herod wants the child killed, I’d say Joseph has plenty of reasons to be afraid. But of course, Joseph doesn’t know that part yet. Matthew is careful to call Joseph by his place in the lineage; Joseph is a son of David, from where the promised messiah would come. Joseph would know that the messiah would come from David’s lineage, and the angel calls him forth to take his place as one who gives Jesus his ancestral identity. Despite the angel’s reassurance, I am sure Joseph knew what kind of danger they were all in. Thankfully, God was on their side, and Joseph was faithful.
I wonder if Joseph knew the kind of responsibility he was taking on; anyone can decide to be a good step father. However, this was no ordinary child, and I imagine Joseph and Mary both had to pretend Joseph was Jesus’ father. I also imagine that was difficult for Joseph especially. And yet, Joseph took a chance on a dream; he took a chance on knowing what God had promised his people; Joseph took a chance on believing that the child Mary was carrying was the fulfillment of God’s promises. We should all have such faith. Joseph’s faith and his strength didn’t just save Mary and the child; his faith saved us all. Because of his willingness to take a chance, the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, God’s chosen one, came into the world in the most unlikely of places. Even today, we shall see Jesus in unlikely places, places where we might be asked to take a chance in order that we might see God break through. I wonder what Joseph thought when he saw the baby for the first time? Did he know that God had indeed broken through?
Ann Weems Poem: Getting to the Front of the Stable