Read Matthew 1:18-25
I bought some new Christmas lights for our back courtyard. Libby and Logan like the courtyard lights that weave in and around the barren vegetation. I leave them up all year but many have burned out so they need to be replaced. I will put up the new ones when I get around to it.
I have Microsoft Office 365 on my computer. It does way more than the old office suite did and the old one did more stuff than I will ever use. I will learn some of the new stuff when I get around to it.
I always have two or three ideas for a new book floating around in my head, one of these days—when I get around to it—I will write them.
There is a message coming soon, if I will get around to it.
Joseph, the son of Jacob who was in the line of King David, had a lot to think about. He and a girl named Mary were engaged to be married. It was called a betrothal. That’s like engagement without egress. You couldn’t just call it off if you didn’t want to follow through with the marriage; you had to get a divorce.
So betrothal is almost like marriage except it’s not betrothal with benefits. The couple would remain celibate until the wedding. The problem was that Mary had become pregnant and Joseph was not the father. That throws a big hitch in your get-a-long.
Joseph could have made a public spectacle of the whole deal, maybe even had Mary stoned. I would think that though crossed his mind several times since he got the news that his wife-to-be was knocked up.
Mary had probably told Joseph what the angel told her, but realize that is a tough pill to swallow for any man. The Holy Spirit got you pregnant.
Most of the time we consider this from a cynical, but probable perspective. Yeah right, Mary. I thought I knew you even though I never knew you in the biblical sense, but somebody obviously did. But this is not the only perspective.
Realize that this concept was not foreign to Joseph. Isaiah had prophesied a virgin birth with the child being called Emanuel meaning God with us. This pericope tells us that Joseph was a righteous man. He lived according to the law. He had surely attended synagogue and knew the prophecies.
Let’s speculate on Joseph’s potential thoughts than were not so cynical. It could happen, but to my girl? What are the odds? And if it is her, where do I fit in?
Joseph had resolved in his mind just to quietly get out of the picture by divorcing Mary. Even if Mary was lying and she had conceived by another man, he still did not want her disgraced any more than the world would bring on its own. If she was telling the truth, could he even be a part of her life anymore? How did that equation work? Did he just get kicked to the curb courtesy of the Holy Spirit? There was no model to go by here.
It’s amazing that Joseph could get any sleep at night, but he did; and an angel of the Lord came to Joseph in his sleep and confirmed to him that the child was of the Holy Spirit, and that Joseph was to take Mary as his wife. Furthermore, Joseph was to name the child Jesus.
In two short verses we find three important pieces of information delivered to Joseph while he slept.
1. The child was conceived of the Holy Spirit.
2. Joseph was to take Mary as his wife.
3. Joseph would serve as human father. The father did the naming of the son. That was his right and duty.
Joseph was told what to name the child and that name was Jesus. The child who was God with us would go by the earthly name of Jesus. That’s the modern English version of the name anyway.
About half a year earlier, an angel had appeared to a man—a priest—named Zechariah. This took place in the temple. Zechariah, unlike Joseph, was an old man who had been married for years. He had no children and had pretty much written off being a father, even though he prayed for that very thing.
In this encounter, the angel told Zechariah that God had heard his prayer and was giving him a son and he would be called John. Zechariah was a bit on the skeptical side. He was an old man and his wife was no spring chicken either. So, he asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this?”
Have you ever been to a class where the instructor begins by saying that there are not stupid questions? That’s not true. One such question might be to ask an angel of the Lord, “Well, just how can I be sure of this?”
Gabriel’s reply was threefold.
1. I am Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God. Those are good credentials.
2. I am bringing you good news from God himself. He has answered your prayers.
3. Because you are such a knucklehead, you are not going to say a word until this very special child is born and you name him John. You had better stock up on #2 pencils and Big Chief tablets.
That question amounted to the last words that Zechariah said for about 9 months. We know that the child to be conceived by Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth would be named John and Zechariah would get his speech back and the Christ would have the promised forerunner in the spirit of Elijah that we know as John the Baptist.
So we consider two men, Joseph and Zechariah, who each received some interesting news about babies on their horizon. Neither was expected. Sure, Joseph surely thought that he would have kids someday, after the marriage was completed and consummated in the usual way. Zechariah thought that he and Elizabeth had missed the boat on the kid business. Both had news contrary to their own expectations.
Zechariah was skeptical. He was in the presence of an angel of the Lord. He was given a very personal message of good news. He had some doubts.
Joseph was a young man who surely had great expectations for his life with Mary. Those plans were interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy—at least it wasn’t in his plans. Mary surely had told him it was part of God’s plan. In his sleep, an angel of the Lord told Joseph to take Mary as his wife.
He awoke, and I am guessing that he did not wake immediately as having this affirmation and resolution in his mind, he probably got the best night’s sleep that he had enjoyed for several days. But when he did awake, he went straightaway and took Mary as his wife.
The angel said, here is what God is telling you to do. Joseph did it.
He didn’t say, “What will my mom and dad think?”
He didn’t say, “What will my friends think?”
He didn’t say, “What kind of trouble will I be in if I botch up bringing up the Son of God?”
He didn’t say or think, “Yeah, okay, when I get around to it.”
He went and took Mary as his wife.
Which brings us to Marine Corps boot camp. It is the longest of all the services. It creates in those who stay the course and become Marines a quality of instant, willing obedience to orders.
Once instilled, the rest of a Marine’s training, development, and life for that matter is mostly about leadership and technical skill. That is because at the foundation are instant, willing obedience.
These come without consideration of danger, personal loss, or even ridicule. I am not sure when Joseph went to Marine Corps boot camp but he displayed these exact qualities—instant, willing, obedience.
God told him what to do and he got with the program right away. There was no further deliberation. There was no when I get around to it. Joseph went and took Mary as his wife and acknowledging that the child was from God, he did not have sexual relations with her until after this child conceived by the Holy Spirit was born.
In this coupling of earthly parents, Mary often gets most of the attention. We don’t know what happened to Joseph later on, but we get glimpses of Mary in the gospels all the way to the cross; where from the cross Jesus appointed John the disciple to take care of Mary as his own mother. Mary gets the headlines. After all, she was blessed among women.
But let’s give Joseph his due. He manned up to the task that God had given him. He didn’t drag his feet about it. It was a tough situation and he was struggling to work it out on his own, but when God told him, “Here is how you are going to handle this;” he did not hesitate.
He took Mary as his wife.
I visualize in my own mind Joseph pulling up to Mary’s parents’ house on his donkey. He has no idea that he and Mary will need that ride for a trip to Bethlehem soon. He goes in and Mary is a little unsettled. Joseph says, “It was going to be one of three things: stoning, divorce, or marriage.” God told me it was number 3, so get packed we are headed to my place, wife.
Joseph with a somewhat devious grin looks at Mary’s parents and says, “I am saving you guys a ton on wedding expenses. Do you know how hard it is to find a maternity sized bridal gown in this town?”
He took Mary as his wife.
Today, we celebrate Advent and Christmas but we should also take this day and do a little self-inventory inspired by the person of Joseph.
Do we try to fit God into our box of personal expectations?
Do we try to limit the Creator and Savior of the world to the what of our situations and the how of our finite minds?
Must we expect limited solutions from a limitless God?
Are we afraid to hear what God is saying to us? What if it takes me out of my comfort zone? What if it is different than the plan that I have sketched out for my life or different from my plan for this year or just not what I wanted to do for the next 10 minutes? What if?
It’s probably a little early to talk about New Year’s resolutions, but if you are running short of things to put on your list, try these three.
1. Get rid of the words if only and what if. Sometimes you may need them but 99% of the time they just get in the way of doing what you know to do.
2. Get rid of the words around to it (Round Tuit). How do you subtly kill willing obedience or even our own initiative? By saying, when I get around to it.
3. Obey God instantly and willingly. Just do it. He really does know what he is doing.
Joseph was in a tough spot but he was a righteous man. That did not make his situation any easier. Facts are facts. Mary’s pregnant and it wasn’t me.
Facts are facts, but God is God and when his messenger says, “Take Mary as your wife,” then you take Mary as your wife and you do it with dragging your feet and you do it wholeheartedly.
The blood of Jesus made us right with God. Like Joseph, we are righteous people too. Isn’t it time that we started listening to what God says and stop dragging our feet about getting it done!
This week, pick one of God’s commands about discipleship and just do it. I don’t mean go to Leviticus 19 and pick a bunch of stuff that you were not going to do anyway and say, Okay, I won’t do that. No, find one of the do this or these things that Jesus told us to do. Here’s three that come to mind.
1. Be the light of the world—let people see God’s light shining through you.
2. Be the salt of the earth—let people taste God’s goodness when they meet you.
3. Love one another.
We all can do each of these, but sometimes we think that we will when we get around to it. Let’s take Joseph’s example and follow God’s direction and do what he told us to do with some urgency and willingness, knowing that God’s plans for us are good, and pleasing, and perfect. God knows what he is doing so when he tells us or leads us or nudges us, we need to willing obey and have some urgency about it.
Let’s not be afraid to live in right standing with God and ready to do what he calls us to do.
And by the way, I got those Christmas lights up for Libby and Logan.
And by the way, I do learn more about my computer software each week, mostly how to get out of something that I got into because my fingers hit the wrong keys.
And by the way, If God put it in my head to write about, I will write a book or an article or just blog post, but it will go from concept to written word. Count on it.
And by the way, Joseph didn’t forget the rest of what he was told to do. He named the child Jesus!