Christmas is only a few days away but we are still in the season of Advent. The time continues for us to consider the coming of God to be with us. Including, the responsibilities and consequences that are a result of God’s arrival. What usually happens when we consider Immanuel (God with us), we assume that God is coming on our terms. God is coming to bless my business. God is coming to make the country powerful. God is coming to thrash my enemy. Yes, the coming of God does bring to us blessing. Yet as we prepare to receive the Christ child, we do so not on our terms but on God’s terms. This is the only way the blessing can be received.
These verses from Matthew might seem a few days early. They are Matthew’s description of Jesus’ birth. Two points are made by Matthew. One is about Jesus’ identity. The other is the reaction of Joseph to the news of Mary’s pregnancy.
Joseph lived in a culture where the worst thing you could do was to bring shame upon the family. Mary was betrothed to him. In those days marriage was a two step process. The first step was betrothal. The second step was the husband at a later date taking his wife to his home to be his wife. During the betrothal step the woman was considered the man’s wife. So the news of Mary’s pregnancy was sure to bring shame upon Joseph and the future marriage. Joseph chose to dismiss her (break off the betrothal) in the least shameful way possible. Later in a dream, an angel told Joseph to keep Mary as his wife. Mary’s pregnancy was Immanuel (God with us) and Joseph was to name the baby Jesus because he would save us from our sins. Joseph did as the angel advised and welcomed Immanuel – God’s flesh and blood presence into the world. He did this regardless of the cultural consequences.
Joseph lived in a time where kings and rulers were not opposed to blurring the line between humanity and divinity. Matthew wanted to clear up any confusion here. The claim of divinity was not through a position of human power. The presence of divinity was not the result of human declaration. Immanuel is God’s action to be with us.
So here we are a couple days from Christmas. The challenge for us is to prepare ourselves to receive ‘God with us.’ How will we do this? According to our expectations or upon our declaration? Or in Jesus, who was not ashamed of our flesh and blood…not ashamed of the cross…in order to bring us forgiveness and a resurrected life? How will we receive him?