Scripture: Isaiah 33:2; Psalm 89:1-4; Matthew 1:17-25
All of the human emotions that one could experience were being experienced by Joseph. He had recently learned that Mary was pregnant. No explanation; just the fact. What was he to do? He and Mary were betrothed (kiddushin). They had entered into the first part of a two-part process of Jewish marriage. That meant that they were legally bound together, and they were planning their wedding. Joseph was a righteous man, a man who kept the Law of Moses, a man who was held in high regard by other Jews. What was he to do?
The Law of Moses demanded that any woman who committed adultery should be killed. It was the punishment to enforce the Commandment of God, saying “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The rabbis of the day had begun to modify how they looked at that law, and now taught that it was acceptable to divorce the woman. Even a divorce would mean disgrace for Mary. Joseph loved Mary. What could he do?
It was a very troubled sleep into which Joseph had fallen. At first, it seemed like a dream, but soon he was wide awake, because standing beside his bed was the angel of the God telling him not to be afraid and telling Joseph that he was bringing a message from God. It was a message that Joseph could never have expected to hear. Of course, as a devout Jew, he knew of the prophecies throughout the generations that a Messiah, a Deliverer, a Redeemer, would come. Never in his mind could he have imagined that he would be a part of making that possible.
The message from God was very clear: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son and you will call his name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”
Let’s unpack this message. There is so much more than appears at first reading.
Joseph, being a righteous man, would have understood the unspoken meaning behind the message. The proclamations of God through the prophets had foretold of the circumstances of the coming Messiah.
- The Messiah would be born of a virgin. (Isaiah 7:14)
- The Messiah must come from the tribe of Judah. (Micah 5:2)
- The Messiah must be in the line of King David whose kingdom God promised would endure forever. (2 Samuel 7:16)
Mary, of course, was a descendent of Aaron, those who were the priests of Judah.
Joseph was descendent of David. The naming of a child was traditionally done by the father and the father’s ancestry became the child’s ancestry.
The angel was telling Joseph that he was an essential part of God’s plan for the promised Messiah to come into the world. The baby would be the Son of God come in human form. Joseph was to follow through with the planned marriage to Mary and adopt the child and raise Him as he would have raised Him if he were his son by birth. He was to name the baby Jesus.
Perhaps the morning could not come soon enough. Joseph must have rushed to tell Mary of the angel’s appearance to him and the message that the angel had delivered. Imagine the Joy of the couple!
Perhaps the wedding was not as elegant as they had planned, but that was not now their priority. They must make everything ready for the birth of this special child.
On this third Sunday of Advent, we join in that experience with Mary and Joseph, in the joyous anticipation of the baby, Jesus, the Son of God, come to earth. The coming of the Son of God, the Christ Child, tells us that God loves us enough to send God’s Son to show us what God is really like. The coming of the Christ Child was a new beginning. It was the end of the need for prophecy about his coming.
It was the beginning of God’s offer of grace beyond all imagination. It meant that human life has meaning and purpose and possibilities beyond our present situation.
The coming of the Messiah, the Christ Child, Jesus, was never a call to human perfection for those who receive Him. It was, and is, an invitation to relationship,
an invitation to accept the forgiveness the He will offer through his death on the cross and his resurrection, and an invitation to declare that God is our God and that Jesus is the Lord of our life.
Would the coming of Jesus make everything perfect in the lives of those who would choose to follow Him? No, because we still live in an imperfect world, a world in which
- there is sickness and infirmity because we live in human bodies,
- there are still final exams in school,
- there are wars being waged between nations,
- we may not always be the most popular guy or gal on campus,
- we may experience financial loss as well as financial success.
If our hope and our inner joy are only in our circumstances, we will most often be disappointed. Joy is not the same thing as happiness. Happiness is an emotion. Joy is a state of being. During this Advent Season there are things that can attempt to steal our joy, things such as:
- anxiety about having the perfect Currier and Ives Christmas celebration,
- disappointment that not everyone is together on one day,
- loneliness that is greater than at any other season.
These are real emotions, but don’t let them steal your joy about the real reason for the season.
A lot of history had passed between the prophecies of the coming of Jesus and his coming; a lot of history has passed since his birth, and, through all the ages, God has revealed God’s self as a God of
- unconditional love.
In this Advent Season might our prayer be, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” Come and enter anew
- our hearts,
- our passions,
- our emotions,
- our actions.
Bind up the wounds of the world; bind up the wounds of our nation; bind up the wounds of our personal lives. Heal our broken relationships, our broken spirits, our broken dreams.
Reveal your presence to us in our inmost being. Enable us to feel your presence and be immersed in your deep and healing love so that we may truly experience the joy of your presence within our lives.