3.  Misgivings, Grace and Name-giving

Starting a Journey with Jesus, Day 3  (Matthew 1:18-25)

Jesus’ birth took place like this.  His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph.  Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph, being righteous, did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he planned to put her aside quietly.

While he was thinking it out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Marry as your wife. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus–‘God saves’–because he will save his people from their sins.”  This would bring to fulfillment the prophet’s message given by the Lord:

Watch–a virgin will become pregnant and bear a son;
 They will call his name Immanuel (it means in Hebrew “God is with us”).

Joseph woke up from his sleep and did just as the Lord’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary.  But he did not know her intimately until she had the son.  He named the baby Jesus.  (Matthew 1:18-25)

I wonder if either Mary or Joseph wanted to be on this journey.  Mary becomes pregnant, and she has to tell the man she is pledged to in marriage that the baby isn’t his…or any other man’s.  Improbably, incredibly, a miracle has taken place.  Joseph doesn’t get to have a normal engagement or wedding or swell with pride at the birth of his firstborn, because it isn’t his son.  If I were either one of these people, I would be filled with misgivings.  Probably it’s a good thing that God doesn’t lay out his long-term plans for us.

When Mary gets pregnant and Joseph knows the child isn’t his, he wonders about Mary — she can’t be his wife now, she has given herself to another.  His misgivings about her, the pregnancy–it’s all a mess in his mind. He decides to divorce her, not a public denunciation and disgrace, but quietly, privately.  He is a righteous man and wants to show grace.

An angel appears to Joseph, answering his misgivings by confirming a miracle of enormous grace has happened.  “Mary’s child is Holy Spirit–conceived.  Take her as yours and name the child Jesus.   The child will save his people from their sins.”

All this is fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: the virgin giving birth, Immanuel: God with us.  A great visitation of grace!

Joseph obeys and does as the angel says.  He takes Mary home as his wife but doesn’t sleep with her until she gave birth, and he names the son Jesus.  Even when the journey takes a turn you don’t want, how will you respond?  Will you take the next step believing that God has something better planned, that His grace is enough?

Prayer:  God, You give so much to us!  Mary was blessed to carry the Son of God in her body and then to raise him.  Joseph was visited by your angel and saved from his understandable but humanly (mis-)guided plans.  You gave him much grace and kind tenderness, leading him in your way.  You gave a revelation and a fulfillment to Your people through the prophet.  And You gave us your son, Jesus, to save us from our sins, to live among us and to be God with us.  What grace!  Thank you for Your love.  Lead me today to live humbly and obediently, to be used for Your purposes.  Amen

Do you personally identify more with Joseph or Mary?  Let your prayer rise from your own experience and blend with Joseph’s and Mary’s walk with God.