18 December 2016

Matthew 1:18-25

“She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (v. 21)

Psalm: Psalm 80


Matthew's Gospel starts by setting out Jesus' ancestry (Matthew 1:1-17). This establishes Jesus' place in the whole rhythm of God's saving work and, more particularly, in the line of David. In today's passage we discover how this unique birth comes about, with the stress that it is in line with the hope and expectation to be found in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Key to the fulfillment of God's promises is Joseph. It is worth trying to imagine Joseph's feelings on discovering that his young fiancée is, in fact, pregnant. Within what might have been a mixture of shame, anger, suspicion and disappointment he nevertheless seeks to protect Mary and her family as best he can by initiating a quiet divorce.

For Joseph to follow through on what he believed to be God's word to him was even more demanding. The community will know that Mary is pregnant as they marry, so Joseph's integrity will be called into question. What is more he can hardly defend himself by recounting the angel's explanation of what God was doing! Some of the questions he had when first learning of Mary's pregnancy may not have gone away and yet he remains obedient.

Thus, with faithful, humble people who can hardly comprehend what God is doing, yet seek to obey, the age of fulfillment dawns. Jesus, the Saviour, who is Immanuel, God with us, 'God divinely human' is born.

To Ponder

  • Jewish hope and expectation was that the Messiah would come from the line of David. God works within that understanding. Reflect on times when you experienced God working as you expected, and also times when God worked in ways you didn't expect. What insights do you uncover?
  • Joseph moves from the initial shock of learning about Mary's pregnancy to humble, and risky, obedience by way of a dream. What helps you to discern God's will?

Bible notes author

The Revd Donald Ker

Donald Ker is a supernumerary minister in the Methodist Church in Ireland. As well as serving as a circuit minister in Bray Co Wicklow and as Superintendent Minister at Belfast Central Mission, he has been General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland and its President in 2009/2010.