Christmas Meditation 2016

Every year I try and think of a different vantage point from which to think upon the Christmas story. Like a rainbow of many colors, the Biblical record gives us many characters from which the account of Christ’s birth can be examined. The Light of the World shown through the prism of revelation gives us one such color in the life of a man named Joseph.

(Matthew 1:18–25) 18 “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.”

Matthew gives us a little snapshot of this man who was critical to God’s providential plan. And yet we know so little about him. But what we do know helps us understand how God used a simple man in a profound way to impact the world.

Joseph espoused: Unlike the flippant way our culture treats God’s institution of marriage, the families of Joseph and Mary entered into a formal marriage betrothal. Joseph and Mary were promised to each other. In their culture, they were all but married save for the fact they had not yet come together in the public celebration and the private intimacy of marriage. Mary was found pregnant with Jesus while she was espoused to Joseph, before they came together.  In other words, the marriage had not yet been physically consummated and for all intent and purposes it looks like Mary is an adulteress.

Joseph – the just: His betrothal promise violated, he had every right to the full extent of Jewish law which could have resulted in the stoning of his bride. And yet Joseph demonstrates a selfless humility in the midst of his disappointment. Obviously, he cannot believe this is possible of his precious Mary. Please remember, God himself chose this woman of character. How Joseph must have wrestled with this impossible dilemma! There is no way his beloved could have done this to him, their families, and herself. But the pregnancy is real. You cannot hide the facts. Can you imagine Mary trying to tell Joseph of the angelic visitation of Gabriel and the news she was to be the mother of Messiah. “No! No! No! This cannot be happening. I do not want to hurt her but there is no way she can be my wife. I will divorce her quietly. I will not make her into a public spectacle.” And while he thought on these things, the angel of the Lord confirms the amazing story related to him by his betrothed. Jewish law demanded a thing confirmed in the mouth of two or three witness. He had Mary and now an angelic visitor confirming his wife was still his virgin yet simultaneously by a miracle the mother of the Christ.

Joseph – the son of David: It is critical for the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy that Jesus was born the son of David. Both Mary and Joseph can trace their lineage back to David. Joseph is of the kingly line with legal claim to the throne. Mary can trace her lineage biologically to David. The problem is Joseph’s ancestor, King Jehoiakim, brought a curse upon the line of David because of his sin. Joseph has legal claim, but because of the curse and geopolitical situation, his royal self is a carpenter rather than a King. (Jeremiah 36:30) “Therefore thus saith the LORD of Jehoiakim king of Judah; He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.” In God’s amazing storyline, God brings Joseph and Mary together to fulfill His promise to David in spite of the curse. Jesus is not the physical son of Joseph so he avoids the curse. Yet being claimed by Joseph as his legal heir, he claims all rights and privileges belonging to this Son of David’s throne. Through Mary, Jesus has also the biological claim as the seed of David so Jesus can at the same time be called David’s son. Like you and me under the curse of sin, God has provided a way for us through Jesus to avoid the curse and to become a child of God.

Joseph – the submissive one: 24 “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:” One might think it was now easy for Joseph to stand in and fulfill his pledge to Mary as her husband. But how does he explain the pregnancy to his neighbors and to his own parents and families. They too are aware Mary is pregnant. We do not read of any celebration or marriage supper. He takes the Son of God as his own without being the physical father of the babe. He takes Mary as his wife and yet patiently waits till the birth of Jesus before he knows Mary intimately. Lastly, firstborn males were normally named after their father. Joseph acknowledges the naming of the child to the rightful Father and in obedience to the heavenly claim names the boy child Jesus. 21 “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”

Joseph – his importance: At this time of the year, the spotlight rarely falls upon this willing servant of God and rightly so. The radiance of God’s Son so outshines the carpenter, Joseph is left in the shadows of the Christmas story. Joseph brings glory to God not by his prominence but rather by his humble obedience. You see, the story is not about Joseph. It is about Jesus. All of us have a storyline which in some ways intersects with the Christ. There are all kinds of characters we could choose to relate to in this narrative: Caesar? Herod? Gabriel? Zechariah? Elizabeth? John? Angels? Shepherds? Inn Keeper? Mary? And last but not least, Joseph?

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knowth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins.” (1 John 4:7-10)

I wish you a very Merry Christmas,

Because of His Love,  

John Schofield