An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
"Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife,
because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit."
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took Mary home as his wife.
Are you familiar with 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books? These books, which I loved during my childhood, put you in the story as the main character. Every few pages you must make a choice. 'If you decide to open the door to investigate the strange noise, turn to page 9. If you decide to first find your friend to investigate with you, turn to page 14.' There are more than 20 different endings per book, each based on your course of decisions. The endings can be radically different - some happy, some deadly!
Put yourself in Joseph's sandals when he learned of Mary's pregnancy. What would you do? Imagine how radically different the Christmas account might read if he had followed his reason instead of God's revelation.
Joseph concluded that Mary must have been with another man. So he made up his mind: He would divorce her, but not in a vengeful way that would draw attention to her infidelity and so bring her disgrace or even punishment. His conclusion was reasonable and his decision was merciful. But how might the Christmas account have played out if he had done so? Does pregnant Mary even make it to Bethlehem? But what about God's promise and plan that said that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem?
God countered Joseph's reason with revelation. He sent an angel to Joseph in a dream, telling him that this child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. This wasn't just some crazy dream; it matched with what God had revealed centuries earlier through the prophet Isaiah, that the virgin would be with child and give birth to a son who would show Himself to be 'God with us,' Immanuel.
But what would YOU do in Joseph's situation? - follow reason or revelation? An even more important question is this: What DO you do, and what WILL you do - follow reason or revelation?
It's quite reasonable to conclude, 'If I try hard enough and live good enough, God will accept me.' But do you see that the very nature of Christmas reveals something entirely different? Jesus Christ was sent into the world precisely because we cannot save ourselves; He was sent to save us! Hence it was revealed that He was to be named Jesus, "because He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)
Consider the outcome of reason's conclusion. 'If I try hard enough and live good enough, God will accept me.' That means that you must live till the day you die under the nagging doubt of where you stand with God. You won't really know until the judgment if you've done enough or if it's been good enough. And if you're honest under God's commandments, you will have to conclude that you have fallen far short.
Now consider the outcome of resting on God's revelation. Jesus came to "save His people from their sins." That means that He really has rescued me from my sins; look at His death and resurrection! That means that I truly am forgiven in full! That means I don't live under His judgment and condemnation, but under His love. That means I don't have to live under fear and compulsion of trying to earn anything with Him, but in the freedom of worshiping Him as the One who loves me. That means I know where I stand with God, right here and now, as a child of God and an heir of eternal life. That means that...that I could go on with countless blessings that God freely extends to us through the gift of His Son.
So let us learn from Joseph's place in the Christmas account that God's revelation trumps our reason. Let us rest peacefully in what God has revealed for us and for our salvation.
See how the blessings of Christmas extend throughout the year to fill your everyday life!
Follow "The ABC's of Christmas" series:
INTRO, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W
Questions or Comments? CLICK HERE TO CONTACT DANIEL.
Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Daniel is the Staff Minister at Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, El Paso TX.