Saturday, 21 December 2019

Advent 4: Matthew 1.18-end: Gill Roberts


It’s so matter-of-fact. 

This is a tricky situation.

There’s a baby on the way – and it’s not his.

What does a man do?  He didn’t want to do it, but he was a faithful Jew, and rules are rules.  So he settles for middle-of-the-road quiet action. It was a good decision – sensitive but right.  It was settled in his mind.  He’d do things quietly.  He could settle down to a good night’s sleep now the decision was made.
BUT … God stepped into his dreams and SPOKE.  God does that sometimes.  You think you’ve got it all sorted but He has other ideas.
He spoke to him personally – Joseph – son of David -

*Don't be afriad

* God is acting

* This is Messiah - Saviour - Jesus

He must have been SHAKEN – but God says, “Remember who you are – son of David.”
Did Joseph understand it was actually happening?  Matthew makes it clear.  The PROPHECY IS BEING FULFILLED!

And then we saw this picture:

It was taken by a friend on holiday in France.  A carving set in a wall.  It had to be a nativity scene – hadn’t it?  But it looked as though the artist had started with Mary – tired out after labour and the long journey of the previous day.  Then there’s Joseph looking over her, exhausted with the trauma and wonder of it all.  The ox and ass – inquisitive (and just fit into the gaps).  And it’s as though the sculptor suddenly remembered who it was all about.  Where shall I put Jesus?  He was in the manger – not at the feet of Mary and Joseph but higher – raised – more prominent (even if it does look as though he’s been put on a shelf and been forgotten!)  Of course, the sculptor could have started with Jesus – placed in the manger set into the wall of the stable – at the correct height for the animals to feed from without bending.  It’s unusual.

It’s a prompt to look again at the first Christmas.

When we examine the nativity records from each of the Gospels, we discover the different viewpoints.  Luke is from Mary’s perspective – John is trying to give the whole picture from the beginning and here in Matthew, we catch a glimpse of Joseph’s part in fulfilling the prophecy.  How easy it is to leave Joseph out of the picture!  Yet here we see God the Father, attending to the details of the care for His Son.  A male, human protector for the Child and His mother.  You have a part to play here, Joseph.  Don’t let your pride hold you back from the significant role that is yours.  OK, so you had wanted this virgin for yourself.  It’s not to be yet.  But she hasn’t been used by a human male but rather sanctified by God Himself.  It’s a privilege for her and for you.  God has need of you both.

Look at this Joseph.
He looks exhausted from the journey and the trauma -  bewildered, amazed by it all. 
He looks dreamy - stunned.  Was the dream real?  Is this real?
There’s another dream to come that will create fear… Facing local public ridicule is one thing but the ire of King Herod is quite something else.  You’ve trusted God so far.  You have farther to go in trust.  Just follow the instructions step by step as you’ve done so far.

Can we do that?

“Seek first His Kingdom and His right way and all these things will be added to you as well…don’t worry about tomorrow…each day has enough worries of its own.”  (Matthew 6 vv31-32)
In the meantime, you might have had some strange things to do, some exhausting things to do, some seemingly impossible things to do.  You may be wondering if it’s real, if you can go on.  Maybe Jesus isn’t as real as He once was.  Is He ‘on the shelf’?  Oh, not that you’ve forgotten Him exactly or left Him out, indeed you speak to Him moment by moment.  But maybe you’ve forgotten just who He is – and who you are - and you need a fresh ‘dream’ – vision – for the next step.  We can forget.  We can presume we know what He’s saying and give Him no space and time to refresh His calling and refresh us.

How do you read that left hand of Joseph in the carving?  It could be raised in blessing.  He might be waving at Mary… Or is he saying, “Enough is enough, God.”?  That’s when we need that fresh vision.  God knows.  May Christmas time provide that time to reflect on the journey we’ve had or the trauma we may have been through and give the opportunity to adjust our focus to that Jesus ‘on the shelf’ and bring Him inside and “let Him grow great inside” us.

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