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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, December 24, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 1:18–25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do 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 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.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. (NRSV)

I continue to be both surprised and grateful for the courage of Joseph and Mary. Though Matthew does not narrate her visitation, Mary apparently said “Here I am” to the angel visiting her with the head-spinning news of the baby. I still pray for even a quarter of the courage young Mary showed when she decided to trust God’s plan to smuggle goodness into the world through her womb.

But Joseph also had courage. Matthew’s words show us a bit more of his struggle. He was not quite so sure about this news Mary brought. She was pregnant. They were not married. That would not be OK with their families. Yet he must have loved her, because he decided to be quiet about it all and see if they could each move on with their lives, separately. The angel, though, was not going to let him off of the hook. The angel must have thought Joseph, like Mary, had what it took. And the angel was right. Like Mary, Joseph would also lean into the angel’s promise of “be not afraid” and say yes. By his willingness to stay in the covenant with Mary, he, too, was saying “Here I am.”

I am struck by how here, even in the very beginning of Jesus’ story, God wanted to do this work in community. Yes, it was the community of a family at first, but God could have chosen to do it differently, even in the beginning. Yet our triune God, who has relationships at God’s very core, made the intentional decision to not go about God’s work of salvation alone, and over time, we would all be drawn into it, as a community, as a family, one “Here I am” at a time.

Incarnate God, I pray for even an ounce of the courage Mary and Joseph possessed. I pray that when I feel your holy nudge in my own life, I, too, will say “Here I am.” Thank you for our large family of faith called Fourth Presbyterian Church and for never letting us off the hook of faithfulness either. Because of what you did both in the manger and on the cross, we trust you are indeed with us, forever. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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