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 dream 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 fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d](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.
The whole point of this series for Advent is encouraging practices which result in more of Jesus being seen through our lives. One of my annual practices, since it was produced in 2010, has been watching The Nativity, the DVD written by Tony Jordan for the BBC a few years ago. It’s fair to say this has brought home to me Joseph’s response in a whole new light.
I’ve always admired Joseph, but I now realise his response was, most probably, far from instinctive and not very comfortable. What I now see when I look at Joseph is someone who heard all the other voices competing for his allegiance, but chose to listen to the voice of God.
Sometimes it’s difficult to get beyond the constant background noise isn’t it? In Joseph’s case, we’re made aware he had at least two tracks playing constantly in the background, which come from familiar genres: his own inner voice and the voices of others’ expectations:
‘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’. (19) But then ‘an angel of the Lord’ steps in when he’s asleep (so not intentionally listening to God) brings another voice: ‘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.’ (20-21) We’re told Joseph ‘did what the angel of the Lord commanded him’ (24).
Listening needs to result in doing something if it’s not to simply remain an exercise in sitting still. But if we don’t listen to the right voice – in our case, as for Joseph, the voice of God – we’ll end up doing the wrong thing.
- Is the background noise in our life preventing us listening for the voice of God? I suggest the daily practice of being silent before God, even if just for a few minutes, is the most beneficial antidote to His voice being shut out of our lives.
- What do our recent and present plans reveal about the voices we are listening to? Be prepared and open for this to speak into your Christmas plans.
- Are we prepared to run with what we believe God is speaking into our lives, whatever other people might perceive? ‘When all is said and done, what has God said, and I’ve done?’
|Prayer: Dear Lord. Help me to hear your voice above the constant chatter of other voices. Help me to be still, in your presence, so I might catch the wind of your spirit and respond to whatever you might speak. Thank you your word brings life. Please help me to trust you to sustain me, as I seek to live it out in practice. Amen.