Beneath the Varnish
As you read this old, well-known Christmas story, ask God to make it new and fresh for you once again.
Read Matthew 1:18-25
 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother 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.  But after he had considered 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 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”).  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
ReflectWhat is the significance of the name(s) given Jesus here?
Everyone would assume they’d jumped the gun. Joseph takes God’s Law seriously, and he concludes that he cannot take Mary home as his wife. That would be condoning her wrongdoing. Although crushed with disappointment, Joseph compassionately determines to keep her shame as private as he can. Only when Joseph has reached this just and loving conclusion does God intervene. Joseph is reassured by the angel that Mary’s child has been conceived by the overshadowing Spirit of God (compare Luke 1:35). His righteous fear of God must not prevent him from taking Mary as his wife. This is a hard message. Everyone would assume that they’d sinned together. Local hostility to them probably prompts them to stay in Bethlehem after the census. Vindication is more than 30 years away, and Joseph will not live to see it. Though no one will believe them and his reputation will be destroyed, Joseph obeys. It is a hard road he must walk. The fact that obedience is difficult doesn’t mean we can duck it. If obeying God means provoking misunderstanding, that doesn’t give us a reason to say “No.” How good are we at obeying when it’s hard or embarrassing?
As you celebrate Christmas, give thanks for the costly obedience of Joseph and Mary and their example.
Heavenly Father, I bow now to once again offer my thanks and praise for the precious, costly gift of Your Son, Jesus.
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