At a time when our hopes are being raised over the vaccine potential, I would like to raise our hopes in the Christmas message of trusting and relying on God to bless us with his presence and provision.
Joseph is a great example of someone who truly listens to the Lord and responds in obedience in what is a difficult situation that he finds himself in.
Matthew 1:18-25 18This 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. 19Because 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. 20But 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. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfil 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”). 24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the LORD had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
For Joseph ‘God with us’ presented him with a dilemma, a dream, and a decision.
Firstly, we are told of his dilemma (v 18). Assuming Mary must have been unfaithful, Joseph decides it would be best to divorce her quietly. Matthew, however, is very clear about the issue of conception: ‘she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit’. Joseph knew what Isaiah had prophesied some 700 years before Jesus was born: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son’ (v 23). Where was he going to put his trust?
Secondly Matthew records Joseph’s dream (v20) which clearly reveals two significant issues: Jesus’ identity as ‘Emmanuel’, God with us (v23) and Jesus’ mission to ‘save his people from their sin’ (v21). So the story announces the essence of the Christian gospel: God with us and God saves us. Was Joseph going to dismiss the dream out of hand or act upon it?
Thirdly, this leads on to Joseph’s decision (v24). Despite his bewilderment and uncertainty, Joseph trusted God enough to obey him. He took Mary to be his wife and they named the baby Jesus, just as the angel of the Lord had told them to. Was Joseph going to ignore or accept God’s way?
Are there any aspects of the Christmas account that evoke in you the same response as Joseph? Matthew challenges us to recognise the identity and mission of Jesus Christ. God with us and God rescues us. If we truly welcome him into our lives, asking him to make his home with us, then we will, just like Joseph, come to understand our own identity and purpose too. It wasn’t straightforward for Joseph and it will not be for us. We have the dilemma of believing in what seems illogical (Does God really care that much about me?). We have the opportunity to dream (as God reveals himself and his call on our life). Which leads to making a decision either to disregard what God is saying to us, or to be obedient and follow him, wherever that might lead.
The Christmas story is one of challenge to believe and choice to embrace. I hope and pray you will have a Happy Christmas!