Monday, December 17, 2007

Joseph ... don't be afraid...share God's dream. Matthew 1:18-25

In my first year as a pastor I preached 3 sermons in 3 days at Christmas time. I decided to try different perspectives on Christmas each day. Christmas Eve was for Mary's view. Christmas Day, with the high sounding theology of John 1 was for Jesus' side of the story. Sunday, December 26 1999 was Joseph's story. This week lends itself to that same kind of story telling. My suggestion, start with Joseph's story on December 23; let everything else fall where it well, the story is what matters.

Joseph's story gets time in Matthew's Gospel and Mary's gets its time in Luke. We only know a few details of Joseph's life up to this point in Matthew because Matthew starts with Joseph's genealogy. We know one thing for certain, he was in the line of David, a true member of the nation of Israel. Everything else we know by assumption. He must have been old enough to be married and Mary's family had probably accepted him as a husband for her.

We assume as people listening to this story Joseph had dreams and hopes like every person we've ever met. He was engaged to marry. He most likely dreamed of having children, building a home, and getting on with life. Joseph's dreams took a turn with the news that Mary was pregnant. He knew that the child wasn't his; and he chose to look away from his dreams involving her and start over in a new direction.

Joseph's meeting with an angel in a dream started his life, and the whole world in turn, on a different course than he expected. The angel began with a word of reassurance, "Joseph, fear not..." Sure Joseph had dreams before; but this one dream was different. This one dream wasn't Joseph's own alone; he shared this dream with God. Some read Matthew 1:18-25 and say the angel pointed to a very old dream. Isaiah spoke of God's dream to an obstinate king, Ahaz, when he turned his back on the God of Israel. Isaiah 7:13-15 

13 Then Isaiah said, “Ahaz, descendant of David, listen carefully! Isn’t it bad enough that you wear out the patience of people? Do you also have to wear out the patience of my God? 14 The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and she will name him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating milk curds and honey when he learns to reject what is evil and to choose what is good. NCV (New Century Version)
Joseph and Mary weren't in this alone. God was going with them into history. He was coming, the angels declared his presence to them, now they both were called to live it out. They had different dreams but both pointed them to what God was up to in this one child Jesus. The dreams were one of God's points of contact in their lives. Even before the dreams they had to word of the prophets to reveal the will of God to them. John Chrysostom wrote 1600 years ago,
And the angel proceeds to refer Joseph to Isaiah; in order that even if he should, when awakened, forget his own words, as newly spoken, he might by being reminded of those of the prophet, with which he had been nourished up continually, retain likewise the substance of what he had said. ECF Schaff, Philip. The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Vol. X. Saint Chrysostom: Homilies of the Gospel of Saint Matthew Homily 5. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997. (please note Chrysostom's foul antisemitism pervades this homily right along side of his intense sense of the Gospel. Use with caution.)
The point the angel was making to Joseph, and that Matthew is trying to make for us, is that Joseph years later shared in a long standing dream with God. They in that night dreamed together of a child Joseph would call Jesus and who we would call Emmanuel. In Luke Mary had her own dream that she shared with God of a child she would call Jesus.

This wasn't the only time Joseph shared a dream with God. In Matthew 2:13-15 a dream would move him and his whole family into safety in Egypt. Nor is this the only time we share a dream with God. Jesus is God's Word in flesh, he is Emmanuel.

1 comment:

LawAndGospel said...

Nice post and blessings to you as we celebrate the Nativity of our Lord.