Peace be with you!
Today in United States, when two people get engaged it is a joyous occasion. The couple makes plans for their wedding with anticipation in their hearts. The engagement is a mutual agreement the couple makes to devote themselves to each other in marriage. If the couple decides not to get married, there is no legal action to take – the two individuals go their separate ways. In contrast, two thousand years ago betrothal was a legal agreement between the parents of the couple. It was every bit as much a promise and commitment as a wedding vow is now. The end of a betrothal was considered a divorce.
Mary and Joseph’s parents enter into a contract, promising that their children’s betrothal will result in a marriage in a year or so. If one party breaks the contract, it will mean divorce and disgrace. Mary is nervous to approach Joseph about her pregnancy because it appears she has committed adultery (grounds for Joseph to divorce her). She worries her family will be disgraced, and she will face hardships within the community. Somehow Mary finds the strength to tell Joseph about her pregnancy even though she understands he might humiliate her in public.
Anyone who has been involved in a romantic relationship that ended in betrayal can understand Mary’s fears. No one wants to tell their beloved they have broken their trust.
Although Joseph is justifiably upset about Mary being pregnant before marriage, he is a righteous man and decides to send her away quietly without making it a public issue. An angel of the Lord visits Joseph in a dream and explains, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20c-21 NRSV). The name Jesus mean “Yahweh saves” or “salvation” in Hebrew. The angel tells Joseph his son will bring salvation from god the Father to the Jews.
Joseph listens to the angel in his dream. He takes Mary home as his wife and names their son Jesus (Matthew 1:24-25). Joseph understands the Lord’s plan is bigger than him. Even before his birth, Jesus is challenging the traditions of his day and replacing bitterness and humiliation with forgiveness, grace, and love. The angel of the Lord tells Joseph to forgive Mary by giving her grace and love. A new era is upon us where anything is possible.
This brings to fulfillment the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us’” (Matthew 1:23 NRSV; Isaiah 7:14). God is coming into the world with a new creation to fulfill his promise to Isaiah. God is coming into the world to experience everyday life – to face our decisions, to feel our pain and sorrow, and to give us forgiveness, grace, and love. God is coming into the world to be with us – to hold us, to lift us up, and to lead us to the light.
Come, O Lord, come!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for coming into the world to be with us. Help us to welcome baby Jesus into the world. Remind us to extend forgiveness, grace, and love to others. Thank you for walking in the world with us. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the behavior covenant by commenting on it.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
- When and how have you experienced someone extending forgiveness, grace, and love to you?
- How have experienced God walking with you?