Christmas is full of delights: gifts, ornaments, tinsel, trees, candy, decorations, turkey, candles, sleighs, reindeer, lights, snowmen, and Santa Claus. Yet, for Joseph, Mary’s betrothed husband, the story of Christmas begins with an agonizing decision. Matthew 1:18-25 says:
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. 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.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dreams 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. 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.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Mary is pregnant. Joseph must consider his response. What should he do? At the least, the Law called for her to be publicly disgraced, which would mean eviction from her family and lifelong shame. At worse, she could be stoned for infidelity and adultery. And if Joseph didn’t do anything, if he tried to keep her pregnancy quiet, take her as his wife, then he’d risk being accused of sleeping with her before they were married – in which case, both could be stoned to death. Joseph did not have an easy decision to make. No wonder he considered what to do.
The word translated “considered” is used only three times in the New Testament. It means something like “revolving thoroughly in the mind”. The word implies careful reflection or thorough analysis. In other words, there’s no snap decision, no impulsiveness, no “off the cuff” reaction. With this word, we sense Joseph’s internal agony over what to do.
But then the angel appears in a dream. He tells Joseph that the child his betrothed fiancée carries is conceived by the Holy Spirit; that this child is none other than Immanuel, God with us; and that this child will be the Saviour of the world.
Joseph is confronted with a truth that will challenge his faith, his life, even biology. God is about to do something only hinted at in ancient prophecy – and Joseph will be at the centre of it. He must make a decision: will he step into the purposes of God or will he remain trapped in the anguish of the circumstances?
Our decisions hardly bear comparison with Joseph’s. Yet, each of us faces moments – perhaps even today – when we must ask ourselves if we will follow the way of God’s grace, if we will trek the path of his love, if we will open our lives to welcome God’s sovereign choice, if we will risk all to follow what he’s doing. What will our response be?
Perhaps the response is a prayer to let God lead us in times of uncertainty. Perhaps it is a step of obedience to tell others about Jesus. Perhaps it is an act of self-denial, putting away sin that continues to plagued us. Perhaps it is a decision to serve, give, lead, forgive, and love where we have not done so before. Perhaps it is the resolve to put God first in 2023 in daily devotion, in honest dealings, in truthful words, in renewed conviction.
Joseph had a decision to make. It was not an easy decision. But when he saw God’s bigger plan and realized God called him into this plan, he humbly accepted what God was doing and he obediently followed.
In our decisions, let's look to God’s bigger plan – to save the world and reveal his grace and love in Christ. May we be encouraged to follow him in obedience. This really is the delight of Christmas.
視頻大意翻譯(Brief video Chinese translation):
我們很自然地被聖誕節的一些樂趣所吸引：禮物、吊飾、樹木、糖果、裝飾品、火雞、蠟燭、雪橇、馴鹿、燈光、雪人和聖誕老人。 因此，毫不奇怪，正如聖誕歌曲中所說，“這是一年中最美妙的時刻”。 然而，對於馬利亞的未婚夫約瑟來說，耶誕節的故事始於一個痛苦的決定。 請聽馬太福音1：18-25。
馬利亞懷孕了。 而約瑟必須考慮他的反應是什麼。 他應該怎麼做？ 沒有簡單的答案--每個選項都會帶來痛苦、風險、羞恥，甚至死亡。 至少，律法會要求她公開被羞辱，這將意味著她被逐出她的家庭和終身的恥辱。 更糟的是，她可能因不忠和通姦而被用石頭砸死。 如果約瑟什麼都不做，如果他試圖保持她懷孕的秘密，娶她為妻，那麼他就有可能被指控在他們婚前就與她上床--在這種情況下，兩人都可能被用石頭砸死。 事實上，正如歷史所顯示的那樣，這正是在未來幾年裡傳播的謠言--耶穌是私生子。 正如你所看到的，約瑟要做的決定並不簡單。 難怪他考慮該怎麼做。
翻譯為 「考慮 」的詞在新約中很少使用--事實上它只出現過三次。 它的意思是類似 「在頭腦中徹底旋轉」。 這個詞意味著深深的思考或仔細的分析。 換句話說，沒有當機立斷，沒有衝動，沒有 「隨手 」的反應。 在這個詞中，我們感覺到約瑟內心在為該怎麼做而苦苦思索。
然後，夢中天使出現。 他告訴約瑟，他的未婚妻所懷的孩子是由聖靈孕育的; 這個孩子不是別人，正是以馬內利，神與我們同在; 這個孩子將是世界的救主。
我們做出的決定很難與約瑟的決定相比。 然而，在其他方面，我們每個人都面臨著一些時刻--也許是今天--我們必須問自己，我們是否願意走神的恩典之路，是否願意跋涉在他愛的道路上，是否願意開放我們的生命來迎接神主權的選擇，是否願意冒著一切風險來跟隨他。 我們的回應是什麼？
或許對你來說，回應是一個禱告，讓神在不確定的時候帶領你。 或許是順服，去告訴別人關於耶穌的事。或許它是自我否定，摒棄困擾你或阻礙你的罪。 或許是個決定，到你以前從沒做過的地方服事、奉獻、領導、原諒和愛。 或許是個決心，在2023年，在每天的靈修中，在誠實的交易中，在真實的話語中，在更新的信念中，把神放在第一位。
約瑟有一個決定要做。 這不是個容易的決定。 但當他看到神更偉大的計劃時，他知道是神呼召他參與這個計劃，他謙卑地接受了神的作為，然後他順從地跟隨。
今天，在你的決定中，要著眼於神更偉大的計劃--拯救世界，彰顯他在基督里的恩典和愛。 鼓勵你順服地跟隨他。 這才真的是聖誕節的喜悅。
Grace and peace for this Advent season