Today we are on the third Sunday of Advent. At Veritas we have been looking at this series entitled Advent(ure) looking at the principal characters within the traditional Christmas stories found in the Gospels of Mathew and Luke.
Two weeks ago we covered the advent(ure) of the shepherds. We talked about the idea that we have nothing to fear, because God is with us, that Jesus is for all people, and we talked about the idea that Jesus came to bring shalom, or wholeness to the entire world.
Last week we talked about the advent(ure) of the wise men. We talked about the idea that they were following a star that didn’t mislead them, that we are all following a star, and we also asked the question which King is on your throne.
And next week we cover the principal character in the Christmas story. The principal character in all the bible. The principal character in Christianity. And I believe the principal character in the entire story of the world and it’s history. Obviously I am talking about the adventure of Jesus, from being with his Father to taking on flesh and incarnating into the world, as a baby born in a manger.
But today we are talking about two other character within the story of that first Christmas, none other than Mary and Joseph. To do that we’ll be looking at Matthew 1:18-25. But you also must know that we’ll primarily be looking at Joseph and his advent(ure). You see Luke tells the Christmas narrative from the perspective of Mary while our Scripture today tells the story from Joseph’s perspective.
So let’s see what we might learn about this advent(ure) of following Jesus through the earthly, adopted Father of Jesus, Joseph. Let’s see what his advent(ure) that first Christmas might say to us following Jesus some 2,000 years later. What might we learn about being a family of missional disciples from Joseph.
As I mentioned we’ll be looking at and unpacking Matthew 1:18-25 to look at Joseph’s advent(ure). Matthew 1:18-25 says, “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 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.”
So there is so much in this story that we could look at and ink has been spilt for years on this story but we, as I said before, will be focusing on Joseph and his advent(ure)
So the first thing we need to look at is something that we see before our text that we are focusing on this morning. In the previous verses we see the lineage of Jesus through the line of Joseph. Now in verse 16 we find a switch on the lineage taking place. Verse 16 reads like this, “and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.” We see the switch from Joseph to Mary. Normally the lineage would have read, Joseph the father of Jesus called Messiah. But the switch happened because Jesus isn’t the father of Jesus, his is the earthly adopted Father, which we’ll see later more about this idea of adoption coming into play.
So with that background we begin the story of Joseph and his experience, his advent(ure) if you will. So Mary is pledged to be married to Joseph. Now Joseph is probably a lot older than Mary. Joseph probably late 20’s and Mary being 13-14. And so they are engaged to be married, or betrothed. This was binding in the Jewish culture and could only be broken through divorce. This betrothal would have lasted a year and at the end of the year their would be a “coming together” ceremony. And this is what they were working towards and moving towards when the word got out that Mary was pregnant. It seems like Mary had not told Joseph that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. So Joseph probably learned about it along with the rest of their families, and the townspeople. And so they Joseph had to decide what to do.
He could have done any numerous things. In that day and age he could have divorced her which would set her up for never being married and never having anyone to take care of her, leaving her destitute. He could have followed the mosaic law which commanded people to stone women who have children out of wedlock. Or he could have divorced her quietly, keeping her dignity and future intact.
So he wrestled with this decision about what to do. And that is when a description in the text comes into play. He is called a just man, or faithful to the law. So he decided to divorce her quietly. You see he considered it impossible to go through with marriage to someone who had been unfaithful to him. He made the “logical” decision to seek a quiet divorce. And with that huge weight off this shoulders, he went to bed and hoped to put the whole sorry mess behind him. In the middle of the night an Angel came to him and spoke these words, “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.”
Now a couple things need to be mentioned about the angel and what he shares with Joseph. The first thing we need to notice is the way that the angel addresses Joseph. He says, Joseph son of David.” Now if we look at verse 16, like before, we see that Joseph’s father was Jacob not David. This title of Son of David is filled with Messianic implications. Jesus is referred 17 times in the New Testament as the son of David. The implication then is that the child growing inside Mary will be the long awaited Messiah.
The second thing we notice is that the angel tells Joseph to not be afraid to take Mary home as his wife. Joseph would need courage to take Mary home as his wife. His family, her family, the town in which they lived, I’m sure the rumor mill would be flying. The tongues would be wagging. In fact one of the rumors that circulated was that Jesus father was actually an unknown Roman soldier. Joseph would need a steel spine to take her as his wife, defend her from the barbs that would come their way, and to also try to explain what had really happen. “No seriously Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. No really I saw an angel.” I can almost hear the “Yeah right. Pregnant. Holy Spirit. Angel.” He would have to not be afraid and to have courage to stand up to all the people, his friends, etc.. who would be telling him to divorce her, get rid of her, and move on with his life.
During Joseph’s dream the angel gives him two things to do. Two decisions that he was supposed to make and follow. He was supposed to take Mary home as his wife. And he was supposed to give the baby boy in Mary’s womb the name Jesus. And there was a third thing that he did that he had not been requested to do. He didn’t consummate the wedding. Presumably it was to remove any doubt of the supernatural birth of Jesus.
We see a few things here that we can apply to our advent(ure) in following Jesus. First of all the simple (but not easy) obedience that Joseph had. He woke up and did as the angel commanded him. Both Joseph and Mary showed obedience in the midst of great difficulty. They didn’t think of themselves, what others thought of them, or what the rumor mill was going to do in their town. They both knew that this advent(ure) was from God and they were willing to follow and obey God’s call on their lives even in the midst of a difficult “assignment”
Secondly there is something amazing about a little detail in Joseph’s obedience. What we don’t understand is that by Joseph obeying the angel and naming the baby boy born to Mary, he was legally adopting Jesus. You see naming a child was the responsibility of the legal father and it ensured the official status of the son and heir. And so through this act of Joseph, that of naming and adopting, Jesus also becomes “son of David.”
It isn’t too different with us in our advent(ure) like we talked about a few weeks ago. We have been named and officially adopted by God the Father and given our place and role in the family of God. In the lineage of Jesus.
But what does this all mean for you and I today? What might we apply to life in Lancaster, PA 2,000 years later? Let’s unpack together some questions about obedience, tough decisions, and doing the will of God in the midst of hard situations.
1. What thoughts, questions, comments, insights, etc.. do you have regarding the Scripture text and the message?
2. Share a time where you knew that obeying God was going to be difficult for you. What was the end result? Did you obey God or not? And if you did obey God what did you learn, etc..?
3. Is there something that God might be calling you to right now that might be difficult, hard to obey, and challenging? If so (and you feel like sharing it) what is it and how can the Veritas community help you obey God?
4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?