24. December 2022
Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
Everything depends on who Jesus is and what He does for you. If Jesus is not God’s only-begotten son, then He is just like every one of us with sin. If He is a sinner, like Joseph, Joseph’s father Jacob, Jacob’s father Matthan, his father Eleazar, David, or Abraham, then He cannot die for their sin or yours. But as the angel of the LORD announced, Jesus is conceived of the Holy Spirit. St. Matthew rightly confessed that He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, Immanuel, the sinless Son of God, with us.
A careful reading of Matthew’s genealogy shows that He came to people whom tradition and experience say don’t deserve to be included. Jesus came for sinful women, not just rebellious, idolatrous, and unfaithful men. He came to redeem Tamar, Judah’s daughter-law-law, who bore him two sons when she played the prostitute. He came to save Rahab, another woman of the night, who believed the report of God’s deliverance and sheltered the spies on Jericho’s wall. He came to redeem Ruth of Moab, a Gentile without inheritance or home. He came to save Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who committed adultery with David. Jesus came to redeem all of them and you too.
Joseph’s whole lineage, back to Abraham, is full of sinners. Their lives are not models of virtuous and godly living. Most of them are forgettable figures. And many are the kind of relatives you ignore, forget to talk about, or outright disown. And yet, today, we hear Joseph is being quite careful to do everything by the books, on the up-and-up.
Betrothal is a legally binding relationship, the first stage of marriage, lasting about a year. The conception of Jesus comes before they live together or have consummated the marriage. To wed Mary, Joseph would have had to receive permission from her father, publicly declare his intent to be Mary’s husband, demonstrate his ability to provide for her while living apart and abstain from the marriage bed. After the betrothal engagement and the wedding, they would consummate the marriage and live together. All Christian parents should teach their children to keep the 6th Commandment and be like Joseph.
But now it seems Mary has been unfaithful to him. Joseph is a just man because he believes in God’s Word and wants to live according to it. But he is also merciful and gracious. According to Moses, a betrothed woman must be stoned if she is guilty of adultery (Deut 22:23-24). And yet, Joseph’s faith in God and love for Mary compels him to show kindness rather than shame and death. He resolves to divorce her quietly, protect her reputation and defend her. Joseph is trying to do right by Mary but can’t stomach another adulterer or prostitute in his family tree.
“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.” It turns out that as much as Joseph sought to avoid the same kind of scandal and disaster that had plagued his family for forty-two recorded generations since Abraham, Jesus was born into that. Every messy, mixed-up family lineage to save them. They can be from Ur of the Chaldeans, women of ill-repute, or abandoned widows. They can be adulterous kings, idolatrous sons, or mourning exiles in Babylon. Jesus comes to save His people, whoever they are, wherever they come from, or whatever they have done. As the Angel of the LORD announces, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He Himself will save His people from their sins.”
He comes to save His people from their sins. That’s what His name means, Yahweh saves! Jesus! He came to save Joseph and Mary from their sins. He came to save His whole family from sins, death, and the devil. That includes you, too! By Baptism, you have been joined to Jesus. You were adopted as sons of God, coheirs with Jesus of His kingdom and eternity. That means this messy, mixed-up family that Jesus was born into is now your family, too. And since He came to save them, He came to save you.
Like Joseph, having heard the announcement of the Angel, it’s time to wake up, believe, and do what the Angel tells you. Jesus is the only son of the Father, but He’s Joseph’s son, too. Or to say it in the way of the Psalmist, He is David’s Son and David’s LORD. He is the woman’s promised Seed, given to crush the Serpent’s head. He is the Son in whom all messy, mixed-up people and every nation of the earth are blessed. He comes to set you, His ransom captive Israel, free. Jesus is Immanuel, God-with-us, born that we may no longer die. He has saved [you], His People, from [your] sins. You are forgiven. Go in Christmas peace. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin