Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS. – Matthew 1:24-25
Are you ready for Christmas? In the New Testament, Joseph illustrates the gifts God most desires from you and me. What are they?
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. – Matthew 1:18-19
How would you have reacted? You make the shocking discovery that your fiancé is expecting someone else’s baby! The Jewish engagement in Joseph’s day was arranged by parents on behalf of their children. It lasted for one year and was a legally binding agreement: the couple was already considered man and wife.
So Mary’s apparent indiscretion was an outrage. The shame and the embarrassment must have been overwhelming. Although stoning was no longer the ultimate punishment for this sin (Deuteronomy 22:23), Joseph still possessed the ability to hurt Mary deeply. In his mind he only had two choices:
- a very messy, public legal proceeding involving charges of gross immorality; or
- a very quiet divorce involving two witnesses.
Joseph pursued justice and mercy. He determined to do what was right; but he would do no harm to Mary. He chose to handle the matter quietly. Joseph displayed a merciful spirit.
Vengeance and retaliation should never be found in our relational toolbox. On one occasion a Samaritan village denied Jesus and his followers customary hospitality because of their race—a true hate crime. The angry disciples asked Jesus whether they should call down fire from heaven to destroy the village. Jesus quietly replied: “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of.” (Luke 9:55)
Joseph possessed a merciful spirit… ready for Christmas!
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” – Matthew 1:20
As Joseph continues to reflect over his options, an angel from God appeared to him in a dream and explained what was really happening to Mary. In the announcement, the angel said to Joseph “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”
Joseph was afraid, but of what? Was he afraid of Mary? No. He obviously cared for her very much, genuinely struggling to know how to respond to her condition. Was he afraid others would think he was the guilty father of Mary’s child? Surely not. The humiliation of Mary through public charges would have been sufficient to clear him of being the father.
Joseph was afraid of offending God. The baby was not his. Mary’s baby and Mary’s heart belonged to another man (or so he would have thought). In Leviticus 21:7 the priests who stood before God were forbidden from marrying a woman like Mary—would making Mary his wife now offend God? Joseph was clearly torn between his love for Mary and his desire to honor God in everything he did.
He struggled to maintain a tender, sensitive conscience… ready for Christmas!
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:20-23
The words from the angel were stunning! In a few phrases, Joseph learned the truth about the baby and Mary. The angel calls Joseph a “son of David,” but the baby has no earthly father, for he is “of the Holy Spirit.” His name will be Jesus—meaning “the Lord saves”—because his mission in life will be to rescue the people of God from their own sins. And the most stunning news item of all? Joseph understands that he is being commanded to take Mary as his wife (verse 24).
Up to this moment Joseph has been developing a well-reasoned, biblical course of action. He is going to do what is right, but not at Mary’s expense. He is wondering if there are any other options—the angel appears in a dream “while he thought about these things.” He is open to new information. He is ready to revise his thinking as he contemplates the best course to take. He is teachable.
Joseph was easily re-directed by God because he had a teachable attitude… ready for Christmas!
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus. – Matthew 1:24-25
Joseph awakened with a set of instructions from God Himself. The dream represented a life-defining encounter with the will of God. Joseph acts immediately, receiving Mary as his wife and giving the name Jesus to the baby born a few short months later.
Joseph does not hesitate. Once he reaches a conclusion regarding God’s will, Joseph decisively and aggressively obeys God… ready for Christmas!
Joseph… a man who demonstrates the right way to get ready for the Christmas Revolution!