The Fuel of Fearless Love

While today is two days after Christmas, the event that special time marks deserves continued reflection.  The writer of the first gospel aids us in that. 
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, 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. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
Matthew 1:18-24 (NIV)

We find a familiar story as we read these words.  Every birth story is important for it tells of life.  This birth story is beyond important; it is fundamental to our faith.  This is the unique story of God choosing a young man named Joseph and a woman younger still named Mary.  Mary was to give birth to a son even before she and Joseph consummated their marriage; “she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” 

This is a powerful story.  Perhaps this story has lost some of its mystery and shock for you, especially if you have heard it countless times.  If that is the case for you, accept my invitation to look with fresh eyes and to hear with clear ears.  Delight in the mystery of this unique story.

For me, one key phrase that the angel speaks to Joseph notifies us that extra, even heavenly, assurance is needed.  What is that phrase? –
“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid . . .”
Of what are you afraid?  What causes you to fear?
     The Dark
     Public Speaking
     Things that go bump in the night
     Death . . .

Whatever your fear or fears may be, take heart from Joseph.  God is there.  God knows you and knows your fears and He gives you the strength to face them.

What was Joseph’s fear?  His fear was in following through with their engagement and marrying Mary who he thought had been unfaithful to him.  As a righteous man, he felt stuck; he did not want to disgrace Mary and parade her supposed-adulterous behavior, nor could he marry her and call it justified.

In those days, an engagement was legally binding and had to be ended in divorce.  Joseph decided to divorce her quietly.  That plan made sense to Joseph and no one would have blamed him.  God, however, had other plans.  So He sent one of His angels to visit Joseph during a dream to explain the nature of Mary’s pregnancy and to tell him to fear not!

     Fear not this vision.
     Fear not your doubt.
     Fear not the doubt of others.
     Fear not the ridicule of others.
     Fear not learning to be a husband.
     Fear not learning to be a father. 
     Fear not raising the baby from the Holy Spirit.
     Fear not giving guidance to the one who will save from sins.
     Fear not your role as earthly father to “God with us.”

We know that Joseph listened and did well for, as the last words we read testify, he “woke up . . . and took Mary home as his wife.”  Wow!  How did Joseph deal with his real fear?  What did he do?

He relied on Love.  He trusted in the love of God and he demonstrated his love to his wife and his “son.”

The Love of God
The role God called Joseph to fill was a heavy one.  It tested his faith.  Why else would an angelic visitation be required if not to make the unbelievable story believable, especially to the man who would marry and care for the woman who everyone, including him up until the dream, thought was an unfaithful woman?

Enter the love of God.  And what better way to enter than with one not-so-subtle reminder . . . “Joseph, son of David . . .”

These words reminded Joseph of his family tree and of the promise contained within it.  Indeed, Matthew began his gospel with these words: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David . . .”

Joseph heard the angel and knew that he was hearing the message of the God who keeps His promises throughout all history.

Joseph’s Love for Family
In the face of all the doubts, Joseph woke up and took Mary home.  To keep the message of Jesus’ origin clear, the newlywed patiently and lovingly waited until after Jesus’ birth to consummate the marriage.  At the birth, he loved the boy and named him Jesus, “Yahweh is salvation.”

Joseph feared; yet his trust in the love of God and his devotion to loving his wife and the Christ-child provide the fuel to overcome his fear. 

Do you know that fearless love?

After his name, Joseph heard the words, “son of David, do not be afraid.”

After your name, as I say, “child of God, do not be afraid,” how do you respond?

Do you know that fearless love?  Can you go and do as the Lord leads you?  What is He calling you to do?  What holds you back?

“Child of God, do not be afraid.”

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