Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Joseph's Christmas Story an Advent Conversation

Who was Joseph? He was Jesus' dad, but God the Father, was Jesus' Father. There's no way around it, the Christmas story's messy. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph's real life complications mirror many people's stories. And that's no accident. God comes at Christmas for the world. Joseph's part in the Christmas story shows God's work in the real world where sin, death, and evil are all at work.
Matthew's tells the Christmas story,

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:18-19 ESV)
The facts seemed very clear to Joseph. He was engaged to Mary. He counted on her faithfulness. He learned she was pregnant. Joseph knew one thing for certain, the child growing inside Mary wasn't his. His plan was simple--end this relationship with Mary and get on with his life. What do you think of Joseph at this point in the story?
Think about it: Joseph's trust in Mary just evaporated. He took Mary's faithfulness for granted. But something happened. The evidence was clear for everybody to see. Joseph lost trust--an essential part of any lasting relationship. Some argue Joseph, in his day, had reason to seek Mary's life. She dishonored him; but he sought to quietly walk away.
How can a person who's broken trust become trustworthy again?
Remember Joseph's plan was to quietly end his commitment to Mary. But somebody had a different plan for Joseph's life. Matthew tells the story this way,
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.” (Matthew 1:20-21 NIV)
Digging deeper There's no question, Joseph had a change of heart. His attitude and actions towards Mary and the child growing inside her change after meeting the angel. The facts of the situation hadn't changed: but his attitude did. Mary was still pregnant, they weren't yet married, he wasn't this babies father, and people were likely still talking behind their backs about what had happened. But Joseph saw things differently. He stopped looking for a way out of his promise to Mary stepping forward instead to help her raise this child. How would you explain Joseph's change of heart to somebody who knows about Christmas trees and Santa Claus but has never heard the whole Christmas story?
A visit from an angel changed Joseph's attitude. And God keeps speaking today through His Word read in scripture, sung about in psalm, hymns, and spiritual songs, heard from friends and family who share God Word with us. God's Word changes how we see things. At a funeral we see a dead body; but faith in God's Word helps us see new life for believers who die. The circumstances haven't changed on this earth; but a heart of faith sees something different. How does God change hearts today?
How important is Joseph's change of heart to the whole Christmas story?
Jesus finds us in the middle of our lives and dreams with both broken and healed parts of our souls. Looking at Joseph's part in the Christmas story leaves no question, our attitude towards our circumstances makes a huge difference. What would it take to change your perspective to see people you dislike as someone God very much cares about? Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. John

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