| Matthew 1:18-25
||Sun, December 20, 1998
Rev. Ed Searcy
|Joseph didn't know what to do.
Before that first Christmas
Joseph was in a panic.
His new bride, Mary, was pregnant.
He should be excited ...
a baby ... their first child!
But, instead, he was worried ...
upset ... angry.
You see, in Joseph's day,
didn't happen in a day ... it took a whole year.
Around the time
of a girl's twelfth or thirteenth birthday
her family would arrange for her to be married.
She and her husband would exchange vows,
and they would be called 'Mr. and Mrs'
but they wouldn't live together yet.
For a whole year the bride would
stay at home with her parents.
Then, a year later
the marriage of the young newlyweds
would be completed
and she would go to live with her husband and with his family.
And during that year
there was one thing that must never happen ...
the bride must not become pregnant with a baby.
It wasn't yet time.
It wasn't done.
It wasn't right.
That is why Joseph was in a panic.
Mary had told him that she was pregnant.
Joseph did not understand.
How could it be?
What should he do?
A part of him said:
It's her fault.
How could she do this to me?
Let her carry the shame ... not me."
But another part of him said:
"She's so young.
This will ruin her reputation.
We cannot go on with the marriage.
It wouldn't be right.
I will share in the shame.
I will divorce her quietly,
without blaming her."
Then Joseph went to bed
and fell asleep
and began to dream ...
that an angel came and tapped him on the shoulder ...
a messenger from God, who said:
"Do you mind if I wake you up?
We have something that we need to talk about."
And Joseph dreamed that he woke up
and made the angel a pot of tea
and gave the angel some sweets
as they sat together at the kitchen table.
It was all so 'real' in the dream.
Then the angel of the Lord said:
"Joseph, descendant of King David,
do not be afraid to have Mary as your wife,
for the child growing within her
is from God's own Spirit!
He is a boy ... a first-born son.
And his name is to be,
in Hebrew, Joshua,
in Greek, Jesus ...
Because his name means
and like Joshua
who fought the battle of Jericho
this little baby
will save the people
from their troubles.
If you don't believe me
just open up your Bible to Isaiah, chapter seven."
And, in his dream, Joseph did just that.
With the angel they rolled out the scroll of Isaiah
and read the words together:
"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call him Emmanuel".
As Joseph rolled up the scroll,
the angel tapped Joseph on the shoulder
once again and said:
"Remember ... Emmanuel means
'God is with us'."
Joseph felt someone tapping on his shoulder.
He opened his eyes
and realized that the dream was over ...
realized that it had all been a dream ...
knew that the angel of the Lord was gone.
Yawning and rubbing his eyes
he began to say
"You wouldn't believe the dream that I just had!"
But his brother was shaking him ...
"Joseph ... Joseph ... wake up.
It is Mary's father and brothers at the door.
They got your message.
They are here to meet with you
to discuss your plans for a divorce.
Get up .. get up ...
I'll make the tea and get out the sweets.
You must come to the table ... hurry."
Joseph had no time to think.
As he pulled on his best cloak and brushed his hair
his mind raced.
What could it all mean?
He remembered his childhood lessons in the synagogue ...
how his teachers loved to remind him of
Joseph and his multi-coloured dreamcoat ...
Joseph who received messages from God in dreams!
Could it be?
Might it have been 'real'?
Was it God's messenger who spoke to him
over a cup of tea in a dream?
But there was no time to sort it all out.
Before he knew it Joseph was sitting face to face
with Mary's father and her brothers
over a cup of tea at the table.
"So", her father began,
"have you decided to place all of the blame on Mary
and all of the shame on us
or are you willing to divorce her quietly,
without making a fuss,
in order to preserve a shred of dignity
for her and for us?"
He did not speak.
The room was absolutely silent.
Then he said:
"I have decided.
I will not place the blame on Mary."
There was a great sigh of relief from her father
and great smiles of delight from her brother.
But Joseph went on:
"Neither will I divorce her quietly".
Now the joy in the room turned to confusion.
Joseph's own brother blurted out:
"What did you say?
What do you mean?"
"I mean", said Joseph,
"that I intend, in due course,
to consummate our marriage
and to have Mary as my wife
and to raise her son as my own.
I will adopt him ...
give him all the rights of one who belongs
to the lineage of King David.
I will name him after Joshua.
The Romans will call him 'Jesus'.
And he will remind Jew and non-Jew alike
of God's promise to save the people."
The room was in an uproar.
The men didn't know what to do.
They had never heard of such a thing.
The women, who had overheard everything
were already running to tell young Mary ...
to tell her that there was no shame ...
to tell her that she was the luckiest woman alive.
Mary, feeling the kicking inside,
said "I know, I know".
Later that night, Joseph's brother asked him:
"Joseph, just tell me one thing.
How do you know that it's going to be a boy?"
And Joseph said:
"Do you remember that I told you
I had the strangest dream?
Sit down. You aren't going to believe this."
To Joseph's amazement,
his brother did believe it.
And do you know what?
He is not the only one.
Whenever we unpack the Nativity scene
and place Joseph with young Mary
beside the creche
we join the community of believers ...
believers in Joseph's dream