Christmas for Joseph

Matthew 1:18-25

Week after week, the faithful, those of us gathered here this morning included, come together in worship, focusing our attention on the Holy Scriptures, at times described as the Living Word.

While the Gospel of John describes Jesus as being the Word made Flesh, that he himself is the Living Word, the phrase is one used most often to reflect how our biblical text, these ancient writings, written thousands of years ago, somehow manage to connect to us today as if they were written specifically to us, regardless of how distant we come from their origins… to become our Good News, regardless of if we find ourselves in the year 20 or the year 2020… where, oh by the way we’ll be in a little over a week.

As the faithful gather for worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, many pastors will reflect in their sermons on how Jesus was born into a broken world… on how that O’ Holy Night, while holy it was, was not void of pain and suffering, fear, anxiety, and hardship, but rather, like so much of our world today, one, defined by such things…

As we gather for worship this morning, just a few days before Christmas, we hear gospel writer Matthew’s depiction of Jesus’ birth.  While each of our four gospels have their own birth story to tell, Matthew focus’s primary on Joseph’s reaction to the news that his newly married wife Mary is with child before they came together… I’ll keep it G rated, and let you use your imaginations to determine exactly what Matthew means by came together.

We know how the story goes.  Mary is found to be pregnant with the Holy Spirit.  Joseph, faithful to the law, as the text reads, yet not wanting to disgrace Mary, plans to divorce her quietly.  That is, until an angel of the Lord commands him to do otherwise… to stay with Mary, and name the child Jesus.

If you ask me, one of scriptures clearest examples of how Jesus, while fully divine, was as well, fully human. The Son of God, born to a human mother, not just into a broken world, but too, born, into a broken family as well.  It doesn’t get much more human than that… As none of us are without our own familial challenges, neither was the Holy family…

As far as our biblical texts go, on the whole, we are told very little about Joseph.  Certainly, when held in comparison to Mary, with only Matthew and Luke giving us any mention of Joseph prior to Jesus’ birth, and no mention of him in all of scripture following a trip to Jerusalem during the Passover Festival, when Jesus was just twelve years old.

So, what do we know about Joseph?  Well, he’s described as a just man…  He was the son of Jacob, of Davidic descent, from the town of Nazareth.  He was a carpenter, husband of Mary, and the earthly father of Jesus.

If we look to Matthew’s Gospel, from where we read this morning, we find no mention of Joseph beyond their visit to Nazareth following King Herod’s death, likely placing Jesus somewhere between the age of 2 to 4.

In the Gospel of Luke, we read that prior to Jesus’ birth, Mary leaves Joseph behind, and makes her way “with haste”into the hill country”… “to a city of Judah”, in order to spend time with her sister Elizabeth.  And then, about three months and one visit from an angel later, she returns home, slightly… well, with child…

And Joseph… well… if you were to ask me for my own personal pastoral opinion on the situation, I don’t care how just of a man Joseph was or how impactful his own visit with the angel was… between Mary’s abrupt departure to be with her sister, her condition upon return, and the lack of communication that likely took place during her time away… not an ideal way to begin a marriage…  We could say that it was a Christmas miracle our young couple made it past Jesus’ entry into the world…

Jesus… Immanuel, God with us… the Word Made Flesh… King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s… Son of the virgin Mary… Son to Joseph, and Son of the Most High… the only begotten Son of God… born into a broken world, one of unjust rulers and social injustice… of pain and suffering, of fear, anxiety, and hardship… to a virgin mother, and by way of Joseph naming Jesus at his birth, to an adoptive father…

As you know, with Christina coming into mine and Gabrielle’s life, so too came a little boy… Noah.

Through Noah coming into my life, as you might expect, the reading before us today, of Matthew’s reflection on Jesus’ birth and it’s focus on Joseph… Jesus’ “adoptive father”… has hit me differently than it has in the past…  There’s that whole Living Word thing…

Going back two years or so, before Christina walked into Church on a Sunday morning a year and a half ago, looked upon me from her pew, and fell in love at first sight… Isn’t that right hunny???  Anyways… when I first began to think about what life would look like to be with someone… I struggled with the thought of being with someone who had a child of their own… I know, not fair, but honest.

And I struggled, because I feared that I wouldn’t be able to love a child who wasn’t biologically my own in the same way I loved Gabrielle.  You can understand that, I think…  But then, as those of you who have fostered or adopted children understand, came Noah… and almost immediately, while not by blood, a son in the deepest sense of the word…

In the midst of his own fears… his doubts and anxieties, maybe even his own insecurities, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph 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.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew’s rendition of the birth of Jesus reminds us that just as our lives today are too often marked by brokenness and fear… of social expectations that can lead to pain and exclusion… where things don’t always go in the way we expected they would… so too was the world Jesus was born into some two-thousand years ago…

The Good News is, that through the gift of the Holy Spirit, that one in the same poured into Mary… that was poured into Jesus as he was baptized by John in the Jordan… is poured into us in our baptisms… That while angels might not come to us in exactly the same way as one did to Joseph in his time of fear and anxiety on the Eve of Jesus’ birth, angels do come to us… reminding us, that regardless of how broken we feel, how fearful we may be, the pain and exclusion that too often defines our lives…  we are never alone…  That just as Jesus was born into the brokenness of Joseph and Mary, so too is he born into ours…  And isn’t that the gift of Christmas?

In all that we face, whispering into our ears and into our hearts; “do not be afraid… for what has been conceived is from the Holy Spirit… Jesus… and he will save his people from their sins… and they will call him Immanuel… God with us”.

Do not be afraid… do not be afraid… for unto you has been born a savior… Jesus, Immanuel… God with us.  And he will save his people… Joseph and Mary and all the world, you and me included…  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

~Pastor Andrew Geib




One thought on “Christmas for Joseph

  1. Our bible study built our discussion around two questions: “what does the Winter Solstice mean to you” and “do not be afraid” which might be used in future sermons. Each could standalone and present a good theological point.

    The Winter Solstice comes every year but few times on a weekend that we could use as a learning tool for our bible study or sermon. A range of answers followed but the one that was most interesting for this Christmas season is that “the light returns”. After the 21st, , the days get longer by about a minuet each day and so in Matthew 5:14–16 we see believers depicted as the light of the world. We as believers are to reflect the Light of Christ so that all can see it in us. The Light is evident to others by the good deeds we do in faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Each of the members of the bible study gave examples of how the light of Christ has changed their lives and the lives of those around them. Sermons sometimes tell people what they want to hear and not what they need to hear from the voices of others who have seen God’s light brighten in their lives every day.

    Do not be afraid–It seems that throughout the Bible God is always to trying to tell us this. Do not be afraid, Moses, for I will be with you when you, a slave, speak to Pharaoh, the king of the Egyptians. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found grace with God. Do not be afraid to act. And this brought us back to Joseph. In Matthew’s story of Jesus’s birth, Joseph is asked to make a leap, to take an action that goes beyond how he would normally understand the law, and in listening to the angel and taking this leap of action. We all talked about the leaps of faith we took when confronted with trials and temptations. He is God with us, to comfort, enlighten, protect, and defend us, in every time of temptation and trial, in the hour of death, in the day of judgment; and God with us and in us, and we with and in him, to all eternity.

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