Friday 19 March 2010

Bible Book:

"When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus." (v.

Matthew 1:18-25 Friday 19 March 2010


The birth narrative in Matthew's Gospel only offers us part ofthe full story as pieced together for the standard nativity play.Its particular contribution to the patchwork gives us Joseph'sfamily tree, Mary made pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and the wickeddesigns of King Herod in response to the wise men who journeyedfrom the east in search of the child. At the end of chapter 2Joseph continues to feature in the narrative as the means by whichthe family are warned of danger and told to flee to Egypt forsafety. At each stage in the story Joseph receives God's messagesthrough a dream and acts upon each of them in ways that keep thechild safe.

Matthew's account of the ancestry of Joseph - as if in response tothe question, 'Who do you think you are?' - seems concerned toemphasise both the continuity of Jesus the Messiah (the Christ)with generations of Jewish history, while also suggesting thatMary's child was so much more than a descendant of King David sincehe was conceived from the Holy Spirit.

In the creeds of the early Church, belief in the virgin birthbecame a fundamental tenet of faith in Christ as son of God - asthe one who bore the new nature, the gift of eternal life. For someChristians, however, especially in a more scientific age, belief ina virgin birth has become a stumbling block to faith. Many wouldargue that God surely worked through the natural relating andintercourse of two people, rather than avoiding this biologicalnecessity, with a sprinkling of magic dust.

Whatever the degree of literalness or poetry with which we chooseto read Matthew's words, today on St Joseph's day we note andremember his role as committed partner and husband to Mary, andprotecting father to the infant Jesus. Whilst acknowledging Mary'scrucial role in bearing, birthing and nurturing this special child,we are reminded through Joseph of the care and shelteringprotection that each child needs within a family, however it may beshaped.

To Ponder

Does belief in a virgin birth enhance or distortyour understanding of God made flesh in Christ?

In what ways does Joseph's role as protector andparent speak to you of God's loving wisdom?

What aspects of your own experience of family,experienced as parent or child, do you see most clearly reflectedin the sketch we are given of Jesus' family?

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