Matthew 1:18-25 *Joseph adopts Jesus’ Story into his life
Christmas is over but God’s story is not, and he’s inviting you into it. When God comes into our story, we also come into his.
I recently saw a meme on social media that said, “Jesus is not a part of the Christmas Story; Christmas is a part of the Jesus story.” This was a helpful reminder that our North American Christmas story—replete with its various practices and messaging—is sourced from a near eastern story about a displaced brown family. More specifically, it’s about a gospel of how God is putting all broken and lost things back together again in our lives and in our world.
If we’re not careful, the story of Jesus becomes only a component of the Christmas story, rather than Christmas a part of the Jesus story.
What strikes me about this passage in Matthew is how Jesus becomes a part of Jospeh’s story, and, Joseph becomes a part of God’s story through Jesus. This Jesus story is most simply expressed in the word-creed, Emmanuel, “God with us.” It is the story of God coming to us in our moments of need. The Jesus story is about your need for God, God’s love for you… and his coming near to you to rescue you.
In the Jesus story God puts you back together… with him. And, God puts people back together… with one-another. This is the Gospel, that God is putting our chaotic world back together, in a God-ordered way. In the Christian tradition, Jesus is the one “thing” that changes “every thing.” Isn’t it unfortunate that we annually relegate this Jesus story to such a small role in our larger cultural Christmas script?
I like to point out each Christmas season that the Church intentionally placed Christmas at the end of December. Christmas comes at the dead of winter, during the longest, darkest night (the winter solstice for us in the north hemisphere). During the darkest night, God strikes a match and lights a candle in the form of a baby, and this baby illuminates God’s story for all to see.
I’ve written about Mary and bearing God. Mary knew and trusted God and she literally bore God in Jesus. The Church calls her the theotokos, the “God-bearer.” God conceived in her Jesus, the Light of the World. God conceives in us too… new and free life, but also new ideas, new relationships, projects, and ministries. We are ‘pregnant’ with God’s light and God’s life… We are God bearers in our neighbourhouds and cities.
Pregnancy of course involves waiting, inconvenient changes, and discomfort. Newborn ideas and ministries are also delicate and fragile. But when Jesus comes, he always comes for mercy, for compassion, and for justice. He comes for hope and for healing.
Inviting God’s Story into Your Story
For Joseph, however, this new reality was not conceived, it was revealed. For Mary, the conception of Jesus, the hope of humanity was a very blessed thing. For Joseph, it was certainly very frightening. It was not a conception, it was an invitation. We know it was an invitation into God’s story because Joseph had the opportunity to decline the invitation. He could have broken things off with Mary and hopefully protected her from disgrace.
But then the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said something special. I think it is the key verse in this passage:
“Do not be afraid to marry her… because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
God came to Joseph in an unwanted pregnancy. A real change to his plans. It reminds me that Jesus shows up in the message of our lives. A few years ago, I wrote about how Christmas is merry and messy.
“Jesus shows up in the mess of our lives. He steps into my work challenges, my marital struggles, he walks past my fighting children, he sits down in the pee and poo of my life and he says, ‘I bring hope here in this place,’ and “THIS is what God among you means.”
God says to Joseph, don’t be afraid, and marry yourself to this reality. Joseph trusted God and and he gave the child the name, Yehoshua, which means “to deliver,” or “to rescue” because through this child God will “rescue” his people from their sins.
This year our local church merged with another local church. It has been a wonderful, and at times, a challenging process. I’ve pondered how God conceived something in both our congregations, similar to Mary and Elizabeth. Both our congregations have been ‘carrying’ this new thing God has conceived separately in us but through which he is giving birth to a new and exciting ministry.
During this process, I’ve been encouraging our newly merged congregation towards acceptance, commitment, and faithful action. It has been amazing to see evidence of this in how our congregation has responded to stress and change. Amongst the chaos of moving and renovating buildings, combining different liturgies and building new relationships… our congregation is experiencing new life.
Notice how Joseph responded to God’s invitation into the Jesus’ story. He responded with acceptance, commitment, and faithful action. He gave it not the name that he wanted, but he accepted the name and reality that God intended. Mary ‘treasured’ how Jesus was conceived into her story. It was not of her doing. Jospeh accepted it, called it by its name, and faithfully raised it as his own.
Now that ‘Christmas’ is over
Now Christmas is culturally over (the church season of Christmas ends January 5th). Visits and gift giving are done. You are probably packing away your Christmas decorations for next year. But Christmas is only a part of the Jesus’ story. Beyond our cultural Christmas, God is conceiving Christ in and through us.
“For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6
The Jesus Story ought to interrupt and break through our Christmas story each year. It ought to invite us into God’s Story and to make it our own. What has God conceived that you need to ‘fear not,’ ‘name’ and ‘raise up.’ Have you responded with acceptance, commitment and faithful action? Or have you just celebrated ‘Christmas’ and put it back away for another year?
May Christ’s light be born in you… and that you would be sent out with that light participating in God’s mission of restoration and renewal of all things.