Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A Compassionate Heart

Matthew 1

"18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus." (NLT)

Joseph is quite a curious character. We don't actually hear him say anything, and we only hear about his presence and activity around Jesus' birth, but what we do know, describes a humble man, chosen for his understanding of God's love, deeper than the laws set to guide it.

When Joseph first discovers Mary's pregnancy, he makes a shocking decision. To us, it seems like the "Christian" thing to do: forgive her and let her go. But the Jewish law(recorded in Deuteronomy 22) held that if a woman who was pledged to marry is found not to be a virgin, then she is to be stoned…to death…it doesn’t even matter if she’s pregnant or not. This righteous up-standing son of the house of David chose to have compassion on her, and release her from their agreement.

Then after his dream, he does an even more remarkable thing, and he takes her into his own care, as his own wife, the one who will one day mother many of his children, and he commits to watch over this one as his own. 

He is painted as the most obedient of men, calm and direct, but he makes radical choices in light of what society would have expected from him. His heart was prepared to see God’s opportunities to speak love, and the first response was not discipline or retribution, but grace and forgiveness. The second response wasn't a teaching of right and wrong, but a hand reaching out in reconciliation and hope for a brighter tomorrow. Joseph welcomed Christ in the faith that God was at work through a confusing and difficult situation. First God would mend his broken heart, and then God would mend the world.

How might God be calling you to soften your heart towards a brother or sister in need of God’s love, in need of a new beginning, in need of a helping hand, in need of a light in the darkness? How might God break open our hearts to see the world in a radically new way this Christmas? 

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