"Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way." This is just one of two stories we get about Jesus' birth and really this one should be called the conception narrative because no where in it is the story of a birth. What it does tell us is a lot about the man Joseph was. Luke tells us about Mary and the shepherds, Matthew gives us Joseph and the wise men from afar. So who is Joseph and what does this story tell us about our own chances for in breaking by God?
First of all Joseph is righteous. He lives by the Jewish rule book calledthe law. Now Joseph is not some old dude who makes wise decisions, no. Joseph would be around thirteen years old, by the narrative. He was Jewish, he would have been betrothed at his bar mitvah and then had a couple of years apprenticeship in order to prepare to marry and support Mary. So the story doesn't tell us what year this is in during his apprenticeship but he is a young man. The story does tell us he was a righteous man though. Can you imagine it, a young man who is working in a shop all day and the fellows are coming in because they've heard the rumors. "Hey Joe, couldn't wait for the wedding night, eh?" And all through this news he's thinking, it's not mine. So he decides to do something quietly. There is no need to shame Mary because Joseph is not self-righteous, he's righteous. He does what is right without unnecessarily hurting others.
Second Joseph has trust in God. As soon as he decides to put Mary away quietly he has a dream, a visitation. In it he is told to trust. Don't put her away, this conception, this child is holy, don't be afraid. He trusts this angel and this dream. He takes her as his wife, trusting, having faith that what was told to him would be true. Mary was pregnant from the Holy Spirit, she was still a virgin, she was righteous. Joseph has faith, maybe this is why the genealogy starts with Abraham in Matthew because Matthew is showing us right off another man of faith.
This is not the only time Joseph dreams, this is not the only time Joseph has faith, this won't be the last time Joseph protects Mary and this child. I'm sure at some point he questions his yes to this strange call, especially when he moves to another country in just a few verses. Yet Joseph's story is a faith story. In spite of desperate times, in spite of doubts, in spite of the shadow of empire, in spite of everything he has faith.
Do not be afraid, have faith. What is it that you are facing in your own faith walk that needs to hear this? Are you questioning a call God has made to you? Are you afraid of all you have heard in the news and want to retreat into your own safe place? Do not be afraid have faith. Do we really face having to pick up and leave and going to a strange country? Most of us don't, women who are abused do, yet do not be afraid have faith wins a freedom and strength they don't know they have until they take those first steps. Do not be afraid doesn't mean everything will work out the perfect way we want it to, it doesn't mean safety, just look at the next part of this story with the slaughter of the innocents. Do not be afraid means we stand in the midst of the fear and face it. We fqce what is unimaginable because we believe in a God who is unimaginable.
Today Joseph gives us this example. Faith in spite of it all. Can you have faith this Christmas? Can you face the things you fear, that snatch your very breath away and trust God is there in the midst of it? This is the season where new things are born, born into a hurting, fearful world. All God asks is for us to repeat the faith story, once again. Do not be afraid, God is with us.