Monday, December 3

Joseph - A Man of Faith

Intro:
Have you ever sensed God asking you to do something that made no sense? Has he ever asked you to take a step of faith so big you knew no one around you would get it? Has God ever asked you to go out on a limb for him...and then cut the limb off the tree?

When I read the story of Jesus' birth and reflect on Joseph, I can't help but wonder if that's a bit how he felt as his betrothal to Mary unfolded...

Read: Matthew 1:18-25
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Think:
Imagine for a moment you grew up in Nazareth two thousand years ago. As a young man you had learned to be a carpenter like your father and his father before him. Over time your family saved and prepared a dowry for your eventual marriage. When the time finally came, your parents announced they'd found a good wife for you. Her name was Mary. She was young, perhaps only sixteen, but from a good and godly family. The two of you became engaged and all that mattered were the final preparations of a room connected to your parents' home for you to live in.

And then something strange happened. Mary suddenly left Nazareth to visit her cousin Elizabeth who lived in Judea. After her departure, people whispered as you walked by. When you asked your father, he confessed there were rumors that Mary was pregnant. Imagine your shock. Those sorts of things did not happen in Nazareth - at least not to your family! Imagine your confusion - what should you do? Your embarrassment - how could she shame you and your family?

Can you imagine Mary coming to your home frightened and alone and sharing with you that she was pregnant? And as if that wasn't enough, she wanted you to believe she had never been with a man! The baby was from the Holy Spirit! When I try to picture the scene, I see Joseph seething with anger. I see him yelling at Mary and telling her, "What do you take me for, a fool? Get away from me! I could have you killed for this...this...adultery!" But the shame such a public trial would bring his family was too much. Instead he agreed to quietly divorce her.

Resigned to this course of action; ashamed of the situation; embarrassed and confused...Joseph had a dream. This time an angel visited him! What was he thinking when he woke up? What was it like to go to his father and tell him about the vision? What did his father say? What was it like for Joseph to realize Mary was telling the truth!?!?

Try to picture Joseph and his father going to see Mary's father. Maybe the room was filled with men from their families. Mary's father and his family know she shamed them by her pregnancy. They fear what Joseph's family will demand. And yet, as Joseph's father begins to speak, they listen in astonishment as he says they believe her and that Joseph wants to take her home as his wife right away!

We hear so little about Joseph in the pages of Scripture. And yet, he is a hero. He obeyed the angel and stepped out on a limb in faith believing that Mary's baby - a child who was not his own - would be all the angel had said. How hard was that for Joseph? How often did he feel like he had climbed out on a tree limb and that the limb was no longer attached to the tree!?!?

Do:
- Take time this week to read the Christmas story slowly. Stop and see the events from the perspectives of those mentioned...and those who observed.

- Take time to think about what God is inviting you into this coming year? Is there a limb he wants you to step out onto in faith?

Will you be like Joseph and Mary and trust him and take that step? Will you stay there even if the limb gets cut off from the tree? 

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