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Joseph: Our Christmas Example

December 16, 2010

Advent 4: Matthew 1:18-25 (follow link for Scripture)

Have you ever wondered why Joseph was such a silent man? We don’t know that much about him. We know Jesus has a father who at least helps name him, take him to synagogue, and observe Jewish ritual early in his life. But we never hear much out of Joseph, do we? However, what we don’t hear from Joseph, we can see in his action. We’re told by Matthew that Joseph is encountered by God 3 times in a dream (Matt. 1:20-24; 2:13-14, 19-21) and each time Joseph obeys the word from God.

But you know, there’s something else in our text that just doesn’t make sense. “Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace…” (Matt 1:19). Wait a minute! What??? It doesn’t take us long to read what little is said of Joseph to see that he is indeed a righteous man who knew and observed his Jewish law. Joseph observed the law that after 8 days you were to circumcise a child and name them (Luke 2:21). He took his family every year to the Temple in Jerusalem for the Passover even though it was many miles from Nazareth (Luke 2:41). He observed the bar mitzvah ritual when Jesus was 12 by taking him to the Temple (Luke 2:42).

So if this man, who didn’t say much, knew his Scripture and tradition so well, how do we explain Matthew 1:19. “What’s to explain,” you ask? Joseph was a “righteous” man who knew his Scripture and religious tradition. Surely he had read Deuteronomy 22??? You know, the text that tells us that if a virgin becomes pregnant by lying with another man then you are to take her in the street and stone her to death. We have to carefully read vv. 19 and 20 to see that there was indeed a time between when Joseph knew about Mary’s pregnancy and resolved to dismiss her quietly and when he learned the whole story. In other words, Joseph had already made up his mind not to adhere to the law of Deuteronomy before he was ever encountered by an angel of God. This “righteous” man decided to break the law in the name of love and mercy before he ever knew he was a part of the greatest plan God had ever hatched.

May it be, this Christmas, that we look to Joseph as our example for the season. May we look at people through the lenses of love and mercy and not legalities that would seek to destroy them. May we be open to the urgings and voice of God that we might be the people changed by Christmas in such a way that we love and accept others in spite of our strongest inclinations. May it be that we seek to know the character of the God found in Scripture rather than cherry-picking particular verses with malicious intent to hurt another. And who knew, ‘ol silent Joseph would be the one to truly point us to the crib of the babe who would love and show mercy to all of us in spite of everything else.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2010 2:05 pm

    good message, Ben.

  2. Jeff permalink
    January 1, 2011 3:42 pm

    This thought has been floating in my mind, but you have nailed it to the wall and enabled me to have a good, clear look at it. Thank you. This is helpful.

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