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Joseph is one of my favorite characters in the Christmas story.  Maybe it’s because we glimpse his humanity as he struggles with what God is asking of him.   Here is a sermon about this father in faith.

A New Dream

A Sermon on Matthew 1:18-25 and Isaiah 43:16-21

For Joseph, the Christmas story began in a place of pain.  At its beginning, he was hurting.  Joseph had looked forward to a life with Mary!  The wedding was near.  And then there would be children.  Joseph would support this family by the work of his hands, building and crafting with wood.  This family would be founded on the central commitment of Joseph’s heart: to live as people of God’s covenant, serving and honoring God by keeping the commandments.

But now Joseph’s hopes and dreams lay in pieces. “I am pregnant,” Mary said.   Unfaithfulness had to be the only explanation.  Word would soon spread all over town and he and Mary would both be shamed in the eyes of the neighbors.

This good man now had a dilemma.  How should a son of the covenant handle this?  These were the options that the law offered:  one option would be to charge Mary publicly, with the result that she could be stoned to death for immorality, which of course meant the child died, too.

Divorce was the other option, but it wasn’t much more palatable.  Mary still might be disowned by her family, condemning her and the child to a life of misery.

Divorce seemed to be the only way, but it had to be done as carefully and quietly as possible.  Joseph didn’t want to be punitive.  Joseph didn’t want Mary held up to public ridicule.  Perhaps he was hoping to work out a way for Mary to make a new start somewhere else.

With all of this going around and around in his head, Joseph fell asleep.  In his film Jesus of Nazareth, Franco Zeffirelli pictures Joseph tossing and turning.  In a horrible nightmare, Joseph sees the people of the town chasing Mary down and crushing her with stones. (more…)

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