Formations lesson for Dec. 23: Announcing Christ
November 30 2001 by Tom Greene , Matthew 1:18-25

Formations lesson for Dec. 23: Announcing Christ | Friday, Nov 30, 2001

Friday, Nov 30, 2001

Formations lesson for Dec. 23: Announcing Christ

By Tom Greene Matthew 1:18-25 The first Christmas could not have taken place without the extraordinary role performed by a peasant who is virtually a stranger - Joseph. God offered Joseph an unusual opportunity and his reaction is a classic example of authentic obedience - of how human beings were meant to collaborate with God. We have very little biographical information about Joseph in the Scriptures. About all we know about the one who was to help shape the early life of our Lord is his family background and vocation. Joseph was a descendant of David from the village of Bethlehem, and he was a carpenter by trade. He became engaged to a young woman named Mary. We know that Joseph was alive when Jesus went to Jerusalem at the age of 12, but that is the last mention of him in the Gospel.

There is one illuminating sequence of events - a time of great personal crisis for Joseph that sets in bold relief the kind of man he really was. During the period of their formal engagement or "betrothal," Joseph learned that his bride was carrying a child that he knew was not his. Such a disclosure came as a staggering blow to him. Yet he demonstrated a depth of merciful compassion that is amazing. It would have been perfectly natural for him to have exploded at Mary in vindictive rage after discovering her condition. But Joseph decided after mulling it over in his mind "to divorce her quietly" (Matt. 1:19).

He is described as "a just man" who lived his life by the Jewish law, and this law called for a woman guilty of adultery to be publicly stoned. Yet Joseph was "unwilling to put her to shame." Not even his own hurt feelings and legal considerations could overrule something else in Joseph's heart ... a feeling of compassion for this one who was "down."

We witness a picture of compassion whose shadow can be seen all through the ministry of Jesus. The Father in heaven really knew what He was doing when He put His Son, Jesus, under the influence of this kind, earthly father.

As Joseph set about to dissolve their engagement quietly, Mary shared with him what had occurred to her. Joseph found himself in a baffling situation. His fianc�e was with child not by him. He had managed to work through his feelings - he was not going to humiliate her. Now she tells him that God was in all of this. Matthew says that Joseph "considered this." He pondered it, and that very night in a dream, an angel came and confirmed to Joseph that Mary's claim was true.

Only a man with a great sense of openness could have accepted such a possibility. Yet this is the nature of faith - being willing to let God be God, and not restrict Him to our narrow limits. Joseph was a humble man. It is not surprising that the Son who was raised under this kind of openness would become a trusting human being. Joseph helped Jesus relate positively to the mystery of life, and He was helped to a right vision of the Father in heaven by the kind of father He had on earth.

The story is told of how a man's son wanted to take speech lessons and worked hard all year at it. The grand finale of the course was a play to be given by all the pupils, and the little boy was obviously disappointed because he was assigned "a bit part" - only three lines close to the end.

At the performance, however, the father told how they labored through two hours of fits and starts, and at last his son's moment came: "And he said the lines --not too soon, not too late, not too loud, not too soft, not too fast, not too slow - he said the lines just right." The father told of leaving the play thinking: "This is a parable of my life. I am just a bit player in the great drama of history. But when the curtain comes down and the stage is vacant at last, I hope it can be said of me, 'He said his lines - not too soon, not too late, not too loud, not too soft, not too fast, not too slow - he said his lines just right.'"

Joseph's participation in the first Christmas was not a starring role, yet in the part given to him - He said his lines just right!

May the example of Joseph inspire us, that in our time and place we may accept and say our lines just right!

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11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tom Greene , Matthew 1:18-25 | with 0 comments
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