I am sorry to say that until a few weeks ago, I don't know if I had ever looked up the story of the birth of Jesus, on my own. It is a familiar story, but how often do we actually read it, and think about it? I am guilty of glossing over the details, in my Christmas rush. So this year, I would like to start each Monday in December with a dose of the real Christmas story. I will post Matthew's version in two parts, and then Luke's version in two parts.
I hope that this gets your week off to a good start, and keeps us all in the right frame of mind for Christmas.
The Birth of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1:18-25
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" - which means, "God with us."
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Isn't it interesting that this version of the story does not talk about the trip to Bethlehem or Jesus being born in a manger? The focus here seems to be on Mary and Joseph, and their obedience to God. Especially Joseph's obedience - he accepted what in those days would have been extremely scandalous: a woman pregnant before marriage. Even more scandalous, not his baby. He accepted the incredible: a pregnant virgin. He accepted that his son would save people from their sins. He didn't argue. He didn't say, "But what if?" or "Why me?" He just woke up, and did what the angel of the Lord commanded him. As you read on in Matthew Chapter 2, you will see that angels kept appearing to Joseph, telling him what to do next, and he kept obeying.
He was amazingly obedient. Fitting that God chose him to be the earthly father of the most obedient Son ever.
Obedience is hard for me. It starts with the difficulty in knowing, for sure, without a doubt, what God wants me to do. I mean, if I am going to go out on a limb for God - risk social embarrassment or embrace the unbelievable - then I better be darn sure of what I'm doing.
Wrong. I make obedience hard when I insist on perfect clarity. The Bible doesn't say, "Joseph understood. He knew what the Lord God wanted him to do, so he woke up and did it." No, it just says, "When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him. . . "
Surely he had his questions and doubts. But he obeyed.
I'm not saying if you get a whim, run with it. Pray about it, think about it, discuss it with others. But there is always that point in decision making when you know what to do - and it may not be what you want to do.
Have you ever struggled with obedience?
Maybe there is something going on in your life right now, where you know what to do . . . but you aren't doing it. Yet. Maybe you are waiting for a sign - an angel or a dream - to make you believe; to confirm what you know to be true.
Instead of waiting, and testing God in that way (we are not all Josephs, we are not all going to get angels or signs), why not simply, obey?
I don't know about you, but this passage has given me a lot to think about this week, and it can all be summed up in one word: obedience.