Devotion B December 16 B AThe Birth of Jesus@ In our Advent devotions so far, we’ve looked at the prediction of the birth of John the Baptist, and Jesus. In our last devotion we looked at the birth of John and all the excitement that swirled around the event. Today, we continue our journey through Luke (though I'll also be dipping into Matthew's Gospel today) and look at the birth of Jesus. May God=s holy word bless us with open hearts to receive whatever message the Lord might want to share with us today. Luke 2:1-7: 1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. The recording of this event is very stark. There isn't much description. We aren't told about any of the events that Joseph and Mary encountered on their journey to Bethlehem. We aren't given many details about their trying to find a place to lodge once they got there. And, in Luke's Gospel is, the only thing we're told about Joseph is found in verse 5: "He [Joseph] went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child." I find this interesting. We were given quite a bit of information about how Zechariah and Mary dealt with the news about their miraculous births, but Luke is silent about the feelings and experiences of Joseph. To learn more about Joseph we have to go to the first chapter of Matthew's Gospel: "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" (Matthew 1:18‑25).
We can only speculate why Luke leaves all the information about Joseph out of his Gospel. It may be because Luke goes to great length to tell the reader that the birth of Jesus was a miraculous birth, and in that sense Joseph didn't have anything to do with it. Maybe he is worried that if he gives Joseph a more prominent place in the story, people will forget this.
But I for one appreciate Matthew taking the time to tell us about Joseph, because, he was certainly put into a difficult spot and his faithful response is worth knowing about. From Matthew's Gospel we know that Mary tried to explain her pregnancy to her fiancée. Afterward what must have been a very difficult talk we are told Joseph’s feelings: "Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly." Joseph found Mary’s explanation too difficult to believe.
What now? Angel to the rescue! "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.'" I can't begin to imagine what Joseph must have been feeling at that moment. But you know what? Just like we lift up Mary's great faith in response to the angels visit, we have to lift up Joseph as well. For in response to the angel’s message we are told: "When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife" (Matthew 1:24).
I'm trying to put myself in Joseph=s shoes, and I have to admit that I don't think I would have done as well him. If Ann would have told me she was pregnant before we were married but not to get bent out of shape because her pregnancy was caused by God ... I'm sorry, that would be a tough sell. Or, if Lee or Andy would have come into my office some morning and said, "Hey pops, I got to tell you something. My girlfriend's pregnant, but I don't want you getting upset, because she got pregnant by God” Another really tough sell!
And yet, that is exactly what Joseph was able to embrace! So, what is the difference between Joseph and me (and mostly likely Joseph and you, too)? The answer is simple to say, but very difficult to embrace: Joseph believed God could do anything, and still acted in the world and the life of people. Let me share that last sentence with you again: Joseph believed God could do anything and still acted in the world and life of people.
Would all of you try to take that into your heart today. Whatever fears, dreams, pains, worries, whatever is pressing on your heart would you take them up to God and believe, really believe this: God can do anything and does still acts in the world today.
May God's possibilities, swallow your fears and anxieties.
~ God bless, Dan.