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Matthew 1:18-25 (New Revised Standard Version)

18 Now 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. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But 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. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All 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.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Devotional Questions from the ELCA Book of Faith Initiative:

What scares, confuses, or challenges me as I read this text?

What delights me as I read this text?

What stories or memories from my own life do I remember when I read this text? 

What do you think God is up to as you read this text?  What is God calling you to do or to be because of this story?

Do you know this story?  The story of the birth of Jesus is more than likely a familiar one, but do you remember studying this version of it before?  If so, bravo!  Most of us are so focused on Mary and the angels and the shepherds (hint:  you can read about these nativity characters in Luke 2), that we forget all about Joseph.  In the Gospel of Matthew, we get a bit of a different perspective on the story.  It’s like opening the windows in your Advent calendar; only after all of the windows are open does the entire picture begin to appear.

What do we learn from Matthew’s telling of the story?  Joseph is much like his Old Testament namesake; he is a dreamer of powerful dreams.  He is a righteous man, meaning that he wanted to do what was right in the sight of God, but he was also a compassionate man who, although he thought his future wife was unfaithful, wanted to make sure that she did not bear the shame of a broken engagement.  We also know that, when angels appear, Joseph pays attention.  He chooses not only to remain engaged to, but also marry, someone who everyone else might have rejected. Why?  Because he believes.  He believes that the child is the Son of God.  He believes that Mary is a God-bearer.  He believes that God will give him the strength to parent his only Son.  He believes that this child, named Jesus (God saves) will save the world.

This year, as we journey through the waiting dark of Advent into the light of Christmas, I pray that you will stop for a moment, take Joseph down from your nativity set, and see this story through his eyes.  Ask for his compassion, his faith, his love.  He is a truly a gift to the ongoing story of Christmas.

In Christ,

Pastor Breen

p.s.  Here’s a poem about Joseph that I have been working on.  It goes to the tune “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

Old Joseph asked, “What do I do now?
It seems that Mary’s broken her vow.
The right thing is for her to flee.
I will dismiss her quietly.
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

“Behold, dear Joseph, have no fear;
Through Mary God is coming here.
Wed her and I will make you brave;
Name the child Jesus, for he will save.”
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

So Joseph took his wife and went.
To Bethlehem they had been sent.
She had the child before his eyes.
Wise men rejoiced; a star lit up the skies.
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Another dream in dark of night:
“To Egypt you must take your flight.
King Herod comes to kill God’s Son.
It seems your journey has just begun.”
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

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