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Sermonette: Dec. 02, 2019


December 2, 2019

This Advent season I am struck by how many dreams and visions are part of the story leading up to Jesus’ birth. Take one of Joseph’s dreams for example: “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” (Matthew 1:20).

Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes. It appeared that Mary had been unfaithful, that she had disgraced Joseph. What else could it be but unfaithfulness? She was pregnant and Joseph wasn’t the father. It’s possible she had told him her story. But would you have believed it if you were Joseph? Joseph had some tough decisions to make.

He could marry the woman he believed adulterous, probably becoming a scorn and laughingstock for the community. He could divorce her; something required if he wanted out of a binding engagement. He could hand her over to the religious authorities and have her punished; they’d probably stone her. But Joseph was a good and kind man and all three choices were unpleasant. What was he to do? What would he choose? Humiliation? Divorce? Vengeance?

I think it is reasonable to imagine that when faced with these choices Joseph went to bed in a tortured state of mind. I suspect he didn’t sleep well at all, but tossed and turned his way in and out of consciousness, first crying then shouting and maybe praying. I wonder how many nights this went on before the merciful appearance of the angel in a dream.

The angel appears to Joseph bringing good news of a great miracle that heals Joseph’s troubled heart. “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, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Joseph hears the angel and, somehow, Joseph is convinced. I wonder if Joseph knew the words of the prophet Isaiah spoken hundreds of years earlier: “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Somehow, Joseph acts in faith, for we read that “When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but he had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son, and he named him Jesus” (Matthew 1:24-25)

I am captivated by this godly man faced with a difficult decision. Should he take an apparently adulterous woman for his wife or reject her? No one would blame him if he chose the latter. She would suffer, but his honor would be spared.

God had something better in mind on a totally different level, revealed by an angel in a dream, something no one could have imagined. Mary is not an adulteress, but a virgin and the mother of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. Joseph hears the angel. He considers the scripture and he believes. And because he does, you and I have a Savior. Glory be to God!


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