In the opening part of Matthew’s gospel we hear an amazing story of Joseph and Mary. Mary was “pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because 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.”
Before we hear the rest of this part of the story I want us to reflect on just what’s going on here. It’s extraordinary. There’s so much in this that in some ways we don’t have any idea about. You’d be tempted like me to think that this is a cultural thing, that is, it’s because this happened in Joseph’s day that this thought would even enter Joseph’s head, yet when I think about it, I don’t think it has much to do with culture, although it seems to be about that. Rather, I think this is about the way we see things. The Bible says we tend to look at how things look from the outside, but God looks at our hearts, not at appearances. God looks at truth and love, rather than some idea of what is right or wrong. This is not to say that God is not interested in right or wrong. After all, God gave us the law. We didn’t invent it ourselves, although we might like to think that. That’s the trap, that instead of leaving judgement to God, we like to place ourselves in that chair.
Joseph wasn’t like that, I don’t think. He just wanted to protect Mary from what others might think, how others might see things. It shows Joseph’s heart, which is why I think, Joseph and Mary were chosen by God. While Joseph was thinking about how he was going to handle all 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. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name of Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Joseph believed the angel. We need to hear these words that Joseph heard. Nothing has changed. We are in as much need of saving as they were then. We are in as much need of Immanuel, “God with us” as they were then. The Christmas story, which it seems that, more and more, the world is trying to hide from us, remains as much the hope of the world, as ever was. My prayer is that, we may know Jesus, Saviour, friend, “Immanuel”, God with us, this Christmas, and every day.
Image: Cees Sliedrecht