- November 30, 2008
- By Lisa Henson, Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene
Joseph and Mary were betrothed, which is like an engagement in the Jewish culture of their time, only with more restrictions and conditions. There were consequences if a betrothed woman committed adultery against her betrothed husband. She even could be killed. Mary did not betray Joseph, but the only testimony he had otherwise was that of an angel. Mary herself had more confirmation than Joseph at this point that she would give birth to the Messiah. She was visited by an angel, and also received confirmation through a conversation with her cousin, Elizabeth, as accounted in Luke 1:26-2:56.
Joseph had to take a step of faith, and trust God. He had to choose whether or not to follow the command the angel of the Lord had delivered to him. In Matthew 1:19, Joseph is described as a “just man.” That meant he was a fair man. That he was a godly man is seen in his decision. Still struggling with the thought of having to put Mary away until after the birth of the child, Joseph also had to bear the shame of taking an adulterous wife.
Joseph was going to be raising the Messiah that would save the world. What responsibility that gave Joseph. Can you imagine being told one of your children was going to have such a great responsibility? All of these things were based on his decision. This child was no ordinary child; He was the long awaited Messiah.
The urgency of the appearance of the angel is clear when you look at the cultural situation. Even more urgent was the importance of the birth of this child. This child “will save his people from their sins,” as stated in Matthew 1:21.
Joseph was told to name him Jesus, which means “salvation.” This baby would grow to save his people from their sin. Joseph had no way of being able to fully comprehend at the time what this meant. We must realize that when Matthew wrote this account, he was looking back through the lens of already knowing the outcome of God’s plan and had experienced the resurrection of Jesus.
Joseph did not know the pain that would be inflicted upon Jesus. He did not know the miracles he would be able to perform. He did not know Jesus would be a great teacher. He would not know that he would die on a cross and be resurrected three days later to overcome sin for all whom will believe. Joseph still took this step of faith.
In Matthew 1:22-23, we are given the meaning of the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Matthew explains the meaning of Immanuel: “God with us.”
It was very important that the prophecy be fulfilled in the Messiah. Jesus’ birth was the start of the plan that God had been planning since the beginning of man. How exciting to know you were part of the fulfilling of prophecy and were going to be an eyewitness to these moments in history.
As we begin this holiday season, we have every reason for great excitement. For Christians, Jesus’ birth is the most important birth in history. We should embrace the miracle of that birth. We are celebrating birth of our Savior. We are celebrating the fact that God is with us.
Of all the gifts you will receive this Christmas, what will you do with the gift of Jesus’ birth? Will you embrace the gift of Jesus’ birth, or will you reject it? Will you share Jesus with others? Take time this holiday season to allow the birth of Jesus to change your life. Take a step of faith as Joseph did, and embrace the miracle of Jesus.
Questions to explore:
• What does Jesus’ birth mean to your daily life?
• What can we do to show others the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ?
• What steps of faith can you take to bear witness to Jesus each day?