Advent II & Confirmation – Matt 1:18-25; Rom 15:1-7
- 6 December 2022
- Stuart Robinson
Advent II & Confirmation
SHAP. St. Michael’s Vaucluse
December 4, 2022.
I think Joseph probably assumed the worst.
He had to, really.
His betrothed, Mary – was pregnant, somehow.
We have no record of Joseph’s emotions at this point.
I can only imagine that the pain of perceived betrayal must have been real and acute.
For not only had Mary seemingly been unfaithful to Joseph, she also (it appears) sought to deceive Joseph with stories of ‘angelic appearances’ and ‘God’s overshadowing her by his Spirit’.
To vindicate himself, Joseph could have demanded, in accord with contemporary ecclesial laws, that Mary be put to death; stoning was one option.
Or he could have publicly denounced her and in so doing consigned her to a life on the street.
Given that Mary was only 14 or 15 at the time, it would have been a miserable existence – especially with a child to care for.
Thankfully, Joseph was a righteous man.
He was neither vindictive, nor was he vengeful.
We learn from the text that he had in mind to quietly bring their relationship to an end – and then presumably get on with his life.
An unpleasant affair – quite sordid really.
Joseph is keen to move on, I should think.
But then he has a change of heart.
Joseph makes a decision that will change the course of his life, and this world’s history.
Had Joseph taken up one his options – and insisted that Mary be put to death, then her unborn child would also have been killed, most likely.
Had Joseph divorced Mary then her illegitimate child – if he survived infancy on the streets, would be shunned by the community.
He’d be treated like refuse, a foreigner, and an alien – unable to claim any kind of genuine Jewish heritage.
But that is not what takes place, is it?
For you see this child has been miraculously conceived – for a purpose.
So, God changes Joseph’s heart.
As God revealed his plans to Mary through an angel – Luke 1, so too will he outline his purposes to Joseph, for this special child.
In a dream, or a vision, God unfolds his greater purposes to Joseph and in so doing underscores the fact Mary really is a virtuous woman.
Not only has Mary been faithful to Joseph and maintained all her promises and vows, she has, in addition – perhaps because of her integrity and godliness, been appointed by God to bear the ‘Christ’ – the Messiah (Luke 2:11) – the long awaited King from heaven, who will “rescue people from their sins”.
It is this information, and the manner in which it is explained, that stops Joseph in his tracks.
And we do well to note that this rescue plan to which Joseph is now privy – is no stopgap, knee-jerk measure, “quick-the-world’s-got-out-of-hand-someone-come-up-with-an-idea!!”, kind of thing.
It had always been in the mind of God to come to his people and release them from the judgement and death to which sin leads.
More than 700 years before the event took place, God through his servant Isaiah, declared that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son.
The child was to be known as Immanuel, which is not so much a name as it is a description of what he will do.
He will be ‘God with us’.
That is, the eternal God will break into time and space, take on flesh, and come among us.
St. Paul underscored the “planned-ness” of this miraculous in-breaking when he wrote, “when the time had fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman, to bring redemption….”. Galatians 4:4.
But it would be misleading to suggest that God coming among us in the person of Jesus, for the express purpose of redeeming or saving us from the consequences of sin, was a scheme devised a mere (!!) seven centuries before it occurred.
The fact of the matter is that it was always in the mind of God to so act.
In the Revelation to St. John 13:8, Jesus – the one spoken of by the angel in Matthew as ‘he who will rescue people from their sins’ – is referred to as being the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
So, it’s a plan – devised in the mind of God before time, worked out in time and history – and applied in your life and mine.
Do you believe that?
Joseph models for us the kind of response to this long-range plan, that God is looking for, I believe.
Joseph wakes up from his dream – or whatever it was exactly, and he takes action.
That is, contrary to convention and tradition, Joseph takes the pregnant young Mary into his home and into his life.
Joseph is used by God as a key player in his great and eternal plan for reconciling the world to himself.
A kind and good carpenter (about whom we hear nothing more after Jesus’ 13th year) and a godly young girl (in her early teens), who obediently respond to God’s call and command, change the course of history.
And God’s strategy, it would appear, has not changed.
God is still working out his purposes in time and history – through ordinary people; people just like you and me – who are, as per our epistle reading, seeking to do good to our neighbours, and those in our spheres of influence, to build them up – Romans 15:2.
With one mind and one voice, you – South Head Anglican Parish, have glorified the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – Romans 15:6
As a church – you have fed the poor and marginalised; you are providing hundreds and hundreds of children with gifts of food and toys this Christmas; you have blessed refugee families with financial gifts and acts of service; you have visited shut-ins and the lonely; you’ve conducted ministry in nursing homes and local schools; you’ve prayed for the sick and cared for the dying; you’ve connected with local families through playgroups and special services and through your home groups; you’ve acted with integrity in the market place and in difficult domestic situations; you’ve given sacrificially to sustain and uphold Christian ministry locally, nationally and globally; you’ve quickly responded to natural disaster appeals and you’ve faithfully testified to your faith in Jesus – even in simple acts…like church attendance, and in signing up for various service rosters.
You have acted – as per Romans 15:5, with the attitude and mind of Christ.
You are doing the good which God prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Thank you for your obedience.
Thank you for your faithfulness.
[And to our Confirmees, in ‘turning to Christ’, you are embracing that kind of mindset wherein you bear with the failings of others – Romans 15:1, you accept and welcome all people because oftheir weakness and frailties. And in so doing you bring much honour, praise, and glory to God, Romans 15:7].
And so dear church, with Joseph and Mary, you are being used of God in his great, glorious, and eternal plan for reconciling the world to himself – through Jesus, in whose name we pray.