Tuesday, 31 January 2023

First Lutheran Corner: Dreams of Christmas – Joseph dreams of a wondrous birth

"… An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph 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." – Matthew 1:20

Put yourself in Joseph's shoes, or better, sandals. Your fiancée is pregnant. You're a moral man; you've not had relations with her. You thought she was a moral woman. But now she's pregnant, probably several months along and starting to show. How do you feel as this news crashes into your inner world like a rock through an earthen vase?

As an engaged man, betrayal would be at the top of Joseph's list of suspicions, I would think.

Certain expectations and promises accompanied engagement in those days, all insured by one's background and social custom.

Mary came from a good family. Tradition gives us the names of her parents, Anne and Joachim. Apparently, she was from the priestly tribe of Levi. Her cousin, Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, was married to Zechariah the priest. Accordingly, one would expect Mary to be a woman of purity and devotion.

Joseph was a man of similar quality but from a different tribe, Judah. His ancestry could be traced back directly to David, Israel's greatest king.

To David it was promised, "I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations." (Ps 89:4)

You might say Joseph was a prince. But the present political reality was that David's dynasty was dead. Rome ruled the world and Herod the murderer, Rome's official agent, sat on David's throne.

So royal descendants like Joseph lived "under the radar," intentionally avoiding any notice by the authorities. Life was short for royals with aspirations. It was safer just to be a carpenter with a common name.

You could think of Joseph and Mary as two ordinary young people whose goals were like anyone else's in their culture. Their fathers had arranged their marriage when both were children, but they'd have grown up knowing all about it.

They'd probably seen each other often. Maybe they even played together. All things being normal, one day they'd get married, have children, live and work in Nazareth, die, and then be forgotten.

But such was not God's plan. Mary and Joseph were to be parents of a king. Officially the only rightful ruler of Judea was Herod. Rome had said so.

Officially, the divine promise that David's throne would be established forever had been suppressed and forgotten. Officially. But God had not forgotten. When God makes a covenant and swears to it, he keeps it.

So, it was that from an obscure family, in an obscure town in Galilee, that God chose a young woman, a virgin named Mary, to bear a child. Born into the house of Joseph, he would be the son of David. Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, he would be the Son of God.

It was all just as planned by God and predicted by the prophets. The necessary events in history had come to pass. All was in readiness for the new king to be born. He only needed a family; a mother to bear him and a man willing to marry the mother of a child not his. It was this latter condition that was problematic; that would require a truly exceptional man.

And it is that man, Joseph, we will talk about on Sunday, Dec. 2, the beginning of the 2019 church year, the beginning of the season of Advent … preparation for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Please join us at First Lutheran to hear the whole story of Joseph’s situation and why his dream would change the world.

The service of Holy Communion will begin at 11 a.m. with lunch immediately following. Children’s Sunday School starts at 11:20 a.m.

All are welcome so please, come as you are and bring a friend of two.

Chris DelCol is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Lucerne, Calif. The church is located at 3863 Country Club Drive, telephone 707-274-5572. Email Pastor Chris at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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