Saturday, December 7, 2013

Countdown to Christmas Joseph in 3D


The account of Christmas would not be complete without some consideration being paid to Joseph. You remember Joseph … that young aspiring carpenter from Nazareth who had been contractually engaged to Mary. Well, you might remember him but does anyone really know him?

In all of the Gospel accounts we never hear Joseph speak a word. We understand him to be a man of great character … perhaps Joseph best represents the “strong silent” type whose actions speak louder than their words. But, for whatever reasons, Joseph was God’s choice …

As I said, Joseph had a marriage contract with a young girl named Mary whose family had moved from Judea to the Galilee region, as did his own family. Most likely they relocated to find work. In those days a construction worker was called a carpenter and Nazareth was a town filled with construction workers who were employed in the many Roman government building projects of King Herod the Great.

With only about 400 families living in Nazareth at that time, it is reasonable to assume both Mary’s and Joseph’s families knew one another well and had some former family ties. At any rate, a marriage had been agreed to between Joseph and Mary and by the time we get to the middle of Matthew’s Gospel, they are in the engagement period.

A Jewish marriage of that day had 3 basic stages:
1.   Contractual Stage (Details & Dowry)
2.   Espousal Stage (Engagement period)
3.   Consummation (Actual Wedding)

The Engagement period could last anywhere from 1 to 14 years depending on when the couple were betrothed. It was not rare to find families who pledged their daughters to be married at birth and put signed contracts in place describing dowry to be paid and fixing a year in which to be married. Falling in love was not always the initiator of relationships. God arranged the first marriage. Love is a commandment even when it is not a feeling …

We don’t know how long Mary had been pledged to Joseph and neither do we know if it was by Mary’s choice or if it was a parentally arranged marriage. However, what we do know is that one day, during the engagement period, it was discovered by Joseph that Mary was pregnant and he knew the child was not his child. What to do???

Thus begins Joseph in 3 D … The First “D” stands for “Dilemma”:

1.  Joseph’s Dilemma
Matthew 1
18  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.
19  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

Joseph was evidently a kind and considerate man who cared about Mary and her future as well as his own. He thought long and hard about his options and felt it might be best for all to simply divorce her in private so as not to put her to public scrutiny, humiliation and shame. No doubt Joseph was disappointed and perhaps he entertained hurt feelings as well however, he consciously looked beyond his own hurts and needs to the hurtful impact his actions could potentially have on others.

People like this who want to do what’s best for everyone and are willing to do what’s right even if it costs them personally are never abandoned by God. Joseph was about to have a God encounter. (The 2nd “D”)

2.  Joseph’s Dream
Matthew 1
20  But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
21  "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."
22  So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
23  "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."

Joseph’s dream was no doubt the result of Joseph living close to God. You see, Joseph is the one man on earth chosen by God to be Jesus’ dad. God, the Father, chose Joseph to be dad to Jesus His Son.

This was not the last time Joseph the dad received critical and timely instructions from God the Father concerning Jesus the Son. Joseph led his family through many difficult days and kept them one step ahead their enemies all because he was willing to follow the Word of the Lord.

One Word from God can change everything. And, God is always speaking … He simply needs to find those of us who are willing to listen … and as well, willing to obey! (The last “D”)

3.  Joseph’s Decision
Matthew 1
24  Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,
25  and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Joseph received the Word of God as a ‘command’. I like Joseph – he epitomizes a soldier in the army of God. He simply shows up, does what he is told to do by his superiors and leaves the rest up to headquarters.

Joseph did not seem too disturbed about the dream rather he accepted it readily and immediately obeyed what he knew was the Word of God.

Our Countdown to Christmas today encourages us to not get locked into our own remedy for the dilemmas we face in life. God’s plan is the best plan and He is willing to speak a fresh Word directly to us.  One Word from God changes everything, even our perspectives.

Have you made your decision to obey the Word of God?