18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do 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 as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
Joseph is often the forgotten person in our telling of the Christmas story. We sing about the angels and shepherds, we wonder at the wise men, and delight in the Virgin and Child. But often we overlook Joseph. Joseph has been likened to the father of the bride; no one pays him much attention in all the celebration but he’s the one left paying the bill. And that first Christmas did cost Joseph dearly. He is a most remarkable man and worth keeping our eye on this Advent. Joseph is exemplary for his faith and his faithfulness.
In today’s text, we learn that Joseph had a dream. Dreams are elusive, airy, ethereal, insubstantial sorts of things. They are so ephemeral, fleeting, and flimsy, hard to pin down. Often dreams in the night leave us scratching our heads the next morning and wondering what really happened.
Dreams are not the sort of stuff that Joseph worked with. He was not a prophet or seer or dreamer, but a laborer, who toiled with more solid stuff like wood and stone. He was a flesh and blood man who passionately loved his Mary. Joseph was saving up and preparing for the day when he and Mary would be one. But Joseph’s world fell apart that day Mary told him she was pregnant!
Joseph was tortured with all kinds of unanswered questions: “How could Mary do this?” “Who was the child’s father?” “What should Joseph do?” “What would his family say?” “What would the elders say?”
Then one night in the midst of tossing and turning Joseph drifted off into sleep and a dream. And in that dream the angel of the Lord came to Joseph and told him not to be afraid to take Mary for his wife, for the Child she carried was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Then the angel of the Lord instructed Joseph that he was to care for the baby as his very own. Further, he was to give to the baby the name, “Jesus…….for he will save his people from their sins.” With that name “Jesus,” Joseph was brought back down to something more tangible, something he knew something about. From the time Joseph was a little boy he had been told about “Jesus.” It was the ancient Hebrew name, “Joshua,” that meant, “Salvation is of the Lord.”
When Joseph awoke from his dream and rubbed the sleep from his eyes, he was left with the most difficult decision a man has ever faced. Would he choose a life without Mary and the questions that he would take with him for the rest of his life? Or would he choose a life with Mary, along with all the insults and mockery that would always be hurled at him?
Joseph took a step of faith and made the decision to stick with Mary and to stick with the word of the Lord that had come to him in a dream. It was a costly decision for Joseph. It would mean that his relatives in Bethlehem would have no room for him or his pregnant bride. It would mean Herod’s soldiers furiously searching for baby Jesus to kill him. It would mean packing up in the middle of the night and fleeing to Egypt. It would mean always bearing the brunt of the village mockers.
Joseph is put off to the side somewhere in our Christmas pageants. We don’t pay Joseph much attention. But this Christmas we would do well to put a spotlight on Joseph, and to honor him and all the likes of Joseph who make hard decisions and stick with God’s word, not counting the cost.
Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest with today’s scripture text,
Matthew 1:18-24, and devotional
Today’s Moments of Diaphany
- an answer to prayer
- evidence of his love and care
- evidence of his creative power and wisdom
- his help to do his work