Had any strange dreams lately? Joseph did!

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When you hear the gospel for this coming Sunday you might think the wrong text is being read, that the reader skipped ahead to Christmas!  Not so.  This passage from Matthew sets the stage for the story we're all so familiar with.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
"Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:
"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us."
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.
(Matthew 1:18-24)
You can understand Joseph's embarrassment, worry and confusion as he was unwilling to expose Mary, his espoused, to any shame in their neighbors' eyes.  His dream offers him some comfort in this confusing situation.   Joseph will have another dream before the end of the nativity narrative, but soon after that there will be no further mention of him in the gospel accounts. He is a faithful, loving and somewhat mysterious man in the life of Mary and her son whom he named Jesus.

The contemporary rendering of Joseph's dream (above) pictures Joseph as the young man he likely was, not as the old man artists serve up to us. His youth and purity, his fidelity to God and to Mary, his espoused, are gracious strokes on the gospel palette.


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