Saturday 19 March 2016

Bible Book:

“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.” (v. 20)

Matthew 1:18-25 Saturday 19 March 2016

Psalm: Psalm89:26-36


There is an assumption underpinning some Christmas sermons thatGod chose Mary to carry Jesus because she was pious, obedient andsurprisingly poetic under stressful circumstances, and that poorJoseph (if he is given much thought at all) just happened to be inthe wrong place at the wrong time.

However, if we stop to consider, Joseph's role is absolutelyvital. Prophecies were fulfilled through Mary ("Look, the virginshall conceive and bear a son", from Isaiah7:14) but also through Joseph, a descendent of King David (seeMatthew 1:1-17 and verse 20). On Thursday, we considered some of the thingsthis particular branch of Jesus' family tree might have to tell usabout the incarnation.

Perhaps more importantly, Joseph provided vital support for Marywhen, by rights, he could have cut and run. Betrothal in Nazareth2,000 years ago looked rather different from many of today'sengagement customs. Usually, the parents of a young man chose ayoung woman to be his wife. The next step, the betrothal, was alegally-binding commitment that could only be severed throughdivorce proceedings. During this time, the couple were referred toas 'husband' and 'wife' (v. 19) but were not yet permitted to sleeptogether. Mary's pregnancy seemed to indicate that she had beenunfaithful to Joseph which, under the Law of Moses, was punishableby stoning. Joseph's choice to "dismiss her quietly" (v. 19) isevidence of his compassion - his obedience to God's command not tobe afraid to take Mary as his wife "for the child conceived in heris from the Holy Spirit" is simply staggering.

Presumably, many people would have assumed that either Josephhad slept with Mary before marriage (thereby breaking Mosaic Law)or that she had been unfaithful and he had chosen to marry herregardless. The Methodist Covenant Prayer asks God to "let mebe … exalted for you, or brought low for you". Joseph is perhapsone of the strongest examples of someone who chose to be obedientto God's will, knowing the likelihood that he would be brought low,pitied or held in contempt. Joseph's faithfulness - to God and toMary - is a model for us all.

To Ponder

  • Try to imagine Joseph's conversations with his family andfriends when they found out Mary was pregnant. How do you think hemight have felt?
  • Who are the people in your life who have provided you withinvaluable support (perhaps at great personal cost)? Take the timeto give thanks to God for them.
  • Have you ever resisted a sense of God's calling because youwere afraid of what people might think? What happened?
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