Emmanuel, God with us.
I like this particular birth narrative in Matthew, because, amidst all the popular talk about Mary at Christmastime, Matthew puts before us the enduring faith of Joseph.
Here is a man who was betrothed to Mary, a young virgin in a Hebrew culture where virginity was not taken lightly. When Joseph discovers his wife-to-be is pregnant, before they had even consummated the marriage, he was undoubtedly devastated, angry, hurt, and worried about what this would mean for young Mary, for her family, for him and his family. So, he resolved to take the most noble action conceivable and to “put her away quietly” it says – meaning, he would take her far, far away from their community to a place where no one would know her. And this was the “good” option.
But God had another plan. According to Isaiah’s prophecy over 700 years prior, “The Lord himself shall give a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel” (7:14). This word was directed to the House of David. God would use a righteous man whose faith was unshakeable, who listened intently and obeyed, and who was from David’s line. Would Joseph fit the bill?
His faithful response to the angel in his dream confirmed that Joseph was prepared to assume the enormous task of raising the Son of God. He woke up, and decided to go embrace a pregnant (yet confident) Mary, and committed to raising her child as his very own – all on the basis of an angel’s instructions in a dream. This is incredible! Can you imagine staying faithful under his circumstances, all because of a dream?
This man had been given a word – a foretold sign – from the Lord. And he could do no other but obey, thus fulfilling a world-altering prophecy as the earthly father of the Son of God.
This Advent season, let us remember the story of Joseph, who with great courage and a trusting faith took in Mary and her child to raise as his own, according to the perfect and incredible will of God. May we also receive the wondrous joy that comes from the knowledge that God “Emmanuel” is with those of us who respond with faithful obedience to God’s call.
Though it may take something unexpected – maybe even dreamy – to shake us up, when God speaks, let us listen, and remember that we are not alone.
in the words of Isaiah
and in the dream of Joseph
your promise was spoken.
Thank you for being Emmanuel,
A God with and for your people.
Help us to be faithful to your will,
And grant us peace and joy this season,
as we remember the wondrous gift of your Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.