Sunday 22 December 2013

Bible Book:

Matthew 1:18-25 Sunday 22 December 2013


The author, Matthew, is treading on delicate ground of theancient story of God's search for the heart of humanity, and ofhumanity's search for God but also of the cultural and ethicalstandards of the day. To quote a friend of mine, there is something'indecent' about the account of Mary and Joseph and Matthew facesthe challenge of how to tell the tale in such a way that it makessense of ancient traditions, and the acceptable behaviour of theday?. If Matthew struggles a little in this task, thenhe sets the scene for Jesus who struggles in exactly the same way,for the God Jesus reveals doesn't fit easily into either ourreligious assumptions or our moral certainties.

From Joseph's perspective a pregnant fiancé with whom he has nothad sex is an awkwardness that is not hard for the modern mind tounderstand, but perhaps we don't quite get the 'indecency' of thesituation. The story is more fundamental than an implied sexualembarrassment or frailty. Women were in those days consideredproperty and theft will be understood to have occurred, promisesand contracts broken, and an ending of the engagement would seemthe most humane way forward. But a relationship of cosmicimportance was about to be destroyed before it had got going - Maryand Joseph no longer engaged - with nothing but sad and bittermemories and child caught between them. Joseph and Mary as partnersmattered or else why did the angel persuade Joseph to hang on inthere?

Joseph is asked to trust that a greater 'decency'is takingplace, a God-incident in which morality and ancient story are notdestroyed, but fundamentally fulfilled. In this way God choosesboth Mary and Joseph to share in the redemption of all, by beingthe family that will hold the baby who will one day hold the world,and bring it life.

To Ponder

  • What is more indecent? A hungry starving child or one withirregular parentage?
  • Why do the issues of sexual immorality sometimes upset us morethan the consequences of injustice, greed, cruelty andneglect?
  • And why do you think God reveals God's own self this way andnot another?
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