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There are no Advent midweek worship services this year (2020).
Pastor Lara is providing weekly devotional reflections. It is our prayer that these reflections bring you a sense of hope and peace.
December 9, 2020
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.
But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “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. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.
In Matthew’s telling of Jesus’ birth, Mary is barely mentioned and there’s nothing at all about their journey to Bethlehem or shepherds or angels. Really, the focus is on Joseph.
For all intents and purposes, Joseph and Mary were already married. They weren’t living together yet, but a legally binding contract for their union was in place, and a pledge of marriage had happened. So when Mary shows up pregnant with someone else’s baby, it’s reasonable that he thought she’d been unfaithful to him.
And Joseph lived according to the law, so he would have been well within his rights to break the engagement. But he wanted to do the honorable thing for himself while still trying to protect Mary. Publicly accusing her of adultery would have meant sentencing her to death.
But even quietly ending the marriage would have meant throwing her out of the house and sentencing her to a life of poverty, because she’d have to live apart from her family and the rest of the community for having a child out of wedlock.
Basically, Joseph was caught between a rock and hard place. And for him, it was an “either/or” decision, and the easier option was to just quietly walk away from her. But God had made a promise that the hope of the world would come through Joseph’s family.
So, through an angel’s voice in a dream, God spoke to Joseph and said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife” – assuring him that she hadn’t been unfaithful to him. And like Abraham and Ruth and others in his family had done, Joseph listened to God’s voice and trusted God enough to step out in faith.
But that isn’t to say it was easy for him to do.
We’ve all had times in our lives when we don’t know what to think or do next – especially this year. The answer of how to proceed ought to be clear, but sometimes it just isn’t. And we live in a time where it’s becoming more difficult to process information because it comes at us so fast.
And adding that to the stress of this year and of not being able to experience this season the way we’re used to, things can get confusing pretty quickly. But Joseph’s story reminds us that God speaks to us, especially when things are chaotic – and that when God speaks, the answer of what to do next is clear.
When things get to be confusing this week, I invite you to stop and listen for God’s voice. Even if it’s only for a minute. Ask the questions that are on your heart, and trust that God will answer and show you the way.
Please pray with me: Holy God, when life and the world give us conflicting messages and troubling events, speak clearly. Help us to hear you in times of clarity and in times of confusion. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.