As the hopes and fears of all the years would be met in the baby boy born in Bethlehem and lying in a manger on that first Christmas night, a joy explosion from heaven ushered in the New Testament era. Luke’s gospel records the moment the Father’s joy arrived on the scene…. Luke 2:8-15
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Before sonograms made it possible for expectant fathers to be aware of whether they would be welcoming a bouncing baby boy or girl into the world, God decided to get in on the gender reveal party in a supernatural way. Yes, the angels shouted and sang their joyous songs of glory to God in the highest on the night when Christ was born. The scriptures do not record any exploding halos filled with blue powder to celebrate the occasion. However, the man who would hold the honor of being Jesus’ earthly dad found out he was having a boy, during a time when many dads do what they often do so well: sleep!
Matthew captures the moment when Joseph heard the news that “it’s a boy!”…. Matthew 1:20-24
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.
From that moment forward, Joseph knew he was having a son. He knew it was a special assignment straight from the hand of God. Only God would give a God-fearing Jew like Joseph the responsibility of being a dad to a divinely conceived child. Yes, Mary was special, chosen, and highly favored by God for this unique task of carrying the Son of God in her virgin womb.
However, Joseph was not chosen by God because of chance. God would not have selected one whowould be a dead-beat dad to God in the flesh. Joseph was paired with Mary because God knew he had the wisdom, strength, grace, and guts to be who Jesus needed him to be from before His arrival. It would be an advent of Jesus, the incarnate “God who saves” that would start the clock ticking towards His prophesied life, death, resurrection, ascension, and impending second coming far into the future. Once Joseph became aware that he was going to be a dad who was married to a wife who was still a virgin yet with child, conceived by the Holy Spirit; certainly, his mind began to race even faster. Some Messianic Jewish scholars believe it likely crossed Joseph’s mind that his bride and mother-to-be was the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied seven centuries ago…. Isaiah 7:14
“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
We think of Joseph and Mary as special, and specially chosen by God for the task of being the parents of the Messiah but do you realize you have been specially chosen by God as well. You probably haven’t had an angelic visitation of a dream sent by God, to say so but God says this about you in Peter’s letter… 1 Peter 2:9
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
God chose you for a special call too….living your life in such a way as to show others God’s goodness!
Back to Joseph
Once Joseph had his supernatural, angelic encounter through his dream, his mind likely pondered many things going forward. A lot goes through the mind of a man when he finds out he’s having a son. Many men today might let their minds wonder about things like:
- Will he look like me?
- Will he sound like me when he talks and laughs?
- Will he like to fish and enjoy the outdoors like me?
- Will he be a lefty or a righty?
- I wonder if he’ll like to work on cars. I wonder what his first car will be. Maybe we could build it together!
- I can hardly wait to meet him and hold him and…oh my goodness…am I ready for all this? Ready or not…here he comes.
Perhaps Joseph had some of these same thoughts after the gender reveal dream, up through the moments when he and Mary made their 90-mile trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be counted for the census that had been decreed.
There was a lot to think about during those days leading to Jesus’ birth. And there were lots of elements to take in and think about when those shepherds showed up at the stable. When they experienced the joy explosion from the angelic choir while watching their sheep out in the fields, they then came to Bethlehem as the first recorded visitors to see the new mom, new dad, and newborn baby….. Luke 2:16-20
They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
There was joy and wonder at what the shepherds saw once they walked into the actual live nativity scene. And Luke is specific in verse 19 about what Mary was doing, probably because she recounted it to him as a source for his letter years later.
19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.
Certainly, joy must have filled the young mother holding God in her arms when the shepherds
arrived and told of all that they had experienced and been told by the angels. Mary’s mind could have
raced back nine months earlier when Gabriel broke into her life with the supernatural good news that sounded eerily similar to the shepherds’ story.
As Mary revisited in the moment near the manger, the juices of joy surrounded her soul. Everything she had been told had come true. Now it was being confirmed with a second source by angelic messengers to these shepherds smelling like sheep and field hands. A lot was unfolding in the little town of Bethlehem that night. But for everything that is in plain sight from the text, perhaps there is something else we needto give attention to that is more subtle, yet present, even as Mary is “treasuring and pondering” all these things in her heart.
It’s good to remain curious as we read the Bible and seek to listen to the story unfold with fresh ears. As we attempt to do that this Christmas, perhaps we should ask the question: “What about Joseph? What was Joseph treasuring up and pondering in his heart?”
It is not unreasonable to believe that Joseph, a new dad blessed by God with the awesome responsibility of welcoming and raising a firstborn son conceived by the Holy Spirit, had some incredible thoughts that also were saturated with joy.
While Luke overtly shares how Mary was “treasuring and pondering” all that the shepherds shared on that first Christmas night, perhaps a subtle clue from verse 21 ties back to what Joseph was “pondering and treasuring” in his own heart. Yes, he likely was basking in the fullness of the first moments of meeting Jesus face to face; however, Joseph probably wondered “How am I going to take care of a baby? Will I have enough to feed this baby we now have? Will I know what he needs when he cries? Will I be a good dad?”
He may also have allowed his mind to shift forward to what would take place in just eight days. Noticewhat Luke records just after the shepherds go on their way in verse 20, telling their story to all
who would listen. Some of the joy of Joseph is paired with the contents of verse 21 that would be his responsibility to as Jesus’ father…. Luke 2:21
“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”
This is when Jesus officially became Joseph’s son in the eyes of the community and their faith. The joy of the reality that God had hand picked him to be the earthly Father of the one who would change everything
At this tradition is where the baby is named. The Father has the responsibility for naming the baby. After hundreds of years of silence from the Lord. Joseph was assured that the Lord’s voice would be heard loud and clear.
For all of Joseph’s life his nation had been under subjection of outside rulers. For all of his life, God had been silent….now on the giving of the name…he knows God is saving his people, Jesus means God saves.
Can you imagine how Joseph felt? The fulfillment of 700 years of prophecy from Isaiah’s proclamation. Thousands of years from the Father’s declaration to Eve about the serpent’s head being crushed.
God chose him as an example to his young son of what a good man, a good, godly man should be like.
No longer would his nation be without the presence of the Lord because His name is also Emmanuel, God with us! The silence of God was over, the freedom for his people was here. God was once again with them and for them in a very real way.
….Joseph like many men in his day was looking for the presence of the Lord to return to Israel…believing for the freedom of his people…Jesus came and did just that, at 12 Jesus showed Joseph and Mary just how it was going to be done….Luke 2:48,49 as I mentioned last week they lost Jesus only to find him several days later in the temple…
His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”
49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
This should have been an encouragement that the promised messiah was here…he would be the one to open blind eyes, (physically and spiritually), set the captive free, and release those in bondage..
You too can have joy this Christmas because you know who this child was as still is today..
This is good news for us today God is still with us, still setting the captive free, still loosening bonds…we don’t need to worry or be afraid, he is always with us. He fills us, strengthens us, blesses, us, loves us…..and once again no matter circumstances, is always with us….he is here right now for you….He is here right with us every day to set you free from fear, worry, anxiety….and fill you with his everlasting love