Emmitsburg Council of Churches

 

The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 1:18-25

1:18 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. 1:19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 1:20 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. 1:21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 1:23 "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." 1:24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 1:25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

This is the Gospel of the Lord . . . .Praise to You O Christ!


What About Joseph?

I like Joseph!..

That Joseph, He's A Good Man!!

In this story from Matthew's Gospel we get to observe Joseph as he is wrestling with the fact that Mary, his fianc, is pregnant before they have come together. Most assuredly, this is a societal and familial condition that we can related to:

IT'S SCANDALOUS!! ANY PARENT KNOWS THAT IF A DAUGHTER BECOMES PREGNANT OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE . . . Let's just admit that it's a form of human tragedy with many pit falls.

It's Shameful! While I don't wish to Discount Mary's feelings on the matter (and for the moment, let us assume that Mary's faith exceeds that of Joseph . . . or in other words, Mary has calmly accepted her pregnancy by the Holy Spirit), JOSEPH, ON THE OTHER HAND (!!!) may be having an ulcer or a heart attack, or he May be raging with anger, or he may be having a Nervous Breakdown!

I'm not sure this is an adequate list of emotions Joseph could have been experiencing, but it's a good start. We get the message, Joseph was facing a crisis and for conversation sake, let us just say that Joseph was at least having a serious PROBLEM with the Virgin Birth!

All kidding aside, just consider the real Emotional Tension for Joseph (and doubly for Mary) . . . . If You or I were JOSEPH . . . WE WOULD HAVE TO WRESTLE WITH: What Does the Law* say to do with a woman who becomes pregnant before Marriage?? *Deuteronomy 22:23-28 States a variety of circumstances wherein an unmarried pregnant woman might be stoned to death (and possibly the man who violated her).

At the Very Least, as Mary's Pregnancy gets on Joseph must worry over:

What will people think?! What are People Saying! Or "If I marry Mary . . . people will speak of an illigitament child behind my back!" Will the local people shun the Carpentry Business??!!

What we're taking note of here is that Joseph must have wrestled greatly with his thoughts. In his mind he must have been trying to work through the scenario of what could have happened with Mary. "An angel of the Lord appeared to her, likely story! Overshadowed by the Most High? Blasphemoous! She will bear the Son of God? Preposterous! Ridiculous!" Over and over again in his mind Joseph must have contemplated what had happened. Nevertheless, he loved Mary, and his thoughts of her integrity, purity and fine character were undoubtedly winning over these negative human emotions.

Secondary to what Mary said about her pregnancy were the thoughts Joseph had to entertain regarding what to do with the situation of her being pregnant outside of their marriage consumation? How could Mary be pregnant!? And if he knew the birth father not to be himself . . . then Who? Or HOW??!! What of the implications ? Should he quietly break off his engagement to Mary? Case in point, this is what Joseph had decided to do. SURELY IT MADE THE MOST LOGICAL SENSE. . . . He would quietly divorce her, and say nothing else about it. There would not be a trial so long as he did not raise a complaint.

We should recognize that Joseph is not hasty in his actions. Joseph is not a severe nor harsh man. He loves Mary, and wants to protect her integrity, no matter that in the moment of his first knowing of her pregnancy, he has limited time to consider what to do and the options have life long implications . . . even Mary's death is a possible outcome of what he does.

This latter point is a hard truth of their religious culture. Joseph had an obligation to obey and uphold the Law of Moses . . . However, in upholding the Law, he still HAD CHOICES. He Could DISMISS MARY QUIETLY, AND NOT EXPOSE HER TO PUBLIC HUMILIATION . . . . this is in fact what he had decided to do. He would not be disobedient to the Law, he just would not pursue his right to accuse her of adultery or fornification.

FOR A MOMENT, TRY TO PLACE YOURSELF IN JOSEPH'S POSITION. . .. THE TENSION OF BREAKING OFF THE ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ONE WHOM YOU REALLY ARE IN LOVE WITH!! THIS IS EXCRUCIATING!!!

And with this decision arrived at . . . with his mind made up, his WILL POWER SET. . . . fortunately JOSEPH goes to "SLEEP ON IT." Now I don't know how many of you have had to make difficult, painful decisions in life all of us do at one time or another, but at some point ------ if/WHEN you are in a predicament . . . and you have to come to a decision, remember to follow Joseph's Example:

Pray on the Matter,

Talk to God about the ISSUE with sincerity and Give Credence To Your Faith . . . Allow God Room to Work in Your Situation as God did for Josoph by sending the Angel.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, give God Time to Respond to you. Give Yourself some distance and Silence from the problem or situation.

Don't act right away, but instead: Listen Carefully for an Angel's Voice Listen for God's Presence to speak to the situation!

In the middle of HIS FITFUL NIGHT, JOSEPH HAD A DREAM: The Angel of the Lord 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. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Lk 1:20-21).

Because Joseph was a faithful, patient, kind, righteous and dutiful man who was able to listen for God's voice in the midst of a PERSONAL CRISIS (!!) he was able to remain calm and WATCHFUL. Because he wisely chose his path of action Christ the Savior was not only BORN INTO A SECURE AND LOVING FAMILY, but was raised and taught the Holy Scriptures, the Traditions of Israel and all of the social etiquette and necessary skills to become our Savior.

Finally, consider some reflections from Pope Benedict XVI who writes: "Let us allow ourselves to be 'infected' by St. Joseph's silence! We need it greatly, in a world that is often too noisy, that does not favor meditation or listening to the voice of God. During this period of preparation for Christmas, let us cultivate interior meditation, in order to welcome and safeguard Jesus in our lives."

I appreciate Pope Benedict's thoughts and emphasis on imitating St. Joseph's quiet faithfulness and stewardship toward Mary and the boy, Jesus. Even though Joseph is a quiet figure in the life of Jesus, his fine faith and attentiveness to God's voice enables Jesus to grow in wisdom and understanding, even from a very young age. It must have been Joseph's own grasp on the heart meaning of the scriptures that made him a great husband to Mary and step-father to Jesus.

The Final Word is God's! God is at work in the remarkable story of Joseph's faithfulness and Mary's courage and their strength in working together to bring the Christ Child into the world. What a strong example we have been given to know that God can work the miracle of relating with us in the most trying of human circumstances, may we give all of ours to Him.

Let us Pray,

Lord Jesus, we want to be believers and people of faith like Joseph and Mary. Show us how to believe what you're doing in our lives. To accept that Salvation comes from our Weakest Moments, and that You never abandon us, but will lead us on by Grace and provide for what we need.

TO GOD BE THE GLORY, AMEN!!! AMEN

Read more writings of Pastor Jon