Rev. David Kluge
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Imagine for a moment that you are engaged to be married only to find out that your future spouse has been unfaithful. How would you react? This is what Joseph faced at a time when engagement was tantamount to marriage.
The 15th-century carol “The Cherry Tree Carol” depicts Joseph “flying in anger” and refusing to pick cherries for Mary. But when he realizes that the child is of divine origin he relents and asks for forgiveness.
Our reading from Matthew relates Joseph’s reaction to the news that Mary was with child before they were married. The evangelist describes Joseph as a “righteous man” who planned to “dismiss” his relationship with Mary “quietly” lest she be exposed to “public disgrace.” Only after our Lord assured him in a dream that the baby she carried was of divine origin did he take Mary as his wife. Joseph could have very easily gone through with the separation thinking that the dream was a figment of his imagination.
Interestingly the evangelist placed this event within the context of our Lord’s ancestry. He divided it into three sections of fourteen: Abraham to King David, King David to the Babylonian Captivity, and the Babylonian Captivity to Joseph. In each case a man fathers a son except one: Joseph. Joseph does not father Jesus, underscoring Jesus’ divine origin.
The number seven was viewed as number of completeness as in the seven days of creation. Matthew’s use of seven plus seven and the inclusion of three women of questionable morals and one Moabite woman underscores Matthew’s message: God’s grace to humanity was fulfilled/completed with the birth of Jesus.
Joseph believed what the Lord had told him in the dream and he “took Mary as his wife.” Would we have such faith? Faith is always a challenge!
Graciously Lord, create within us a faith similar to that of Joseph as we deal with the challenges of daily life and at times may struggle in understanding your will for us. Grant that we may hold fast to the word of forgiveness and promise of life in your Son. In his name we pray. Amen.