Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Jesus our Immanuel"

"... an angel of the Lord appeared to [joseph] in a dream and said, 'joseph son of ddavid, 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 fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' (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."
(matthew 1.20-24 tniv)

i remember listening to a story about jonah when i was growing up. two kids have an opportunity to experience the story alongside jonah. in the belly of the fish, they listen to jonah complain. the kids tell jonah how much easier it should have been for him to obey God since he got to hear God speak directly. jonah quickly retorts, "you hear your parents, don't you? yet you don't always listen to them, and God says to honor your father and mother." for some reason that thought has always stuck with me.

sure it would be great to hear God speak directly to me, especially when facing a particularly big decision or a great fear. what i love about this account of joseph is that he is so faithful. he is told to go ahead and marry mary and he gets up and does it. i want to have that kind of faithfulness. because of his faithfulness, he got to be the adopted father of Jesus here on earth. what an incredible responsibility as well as privilege.

from mark 6.3 we hear that people identify Jesus as a carpenter. that means that during the 30 years before Jesus began his public ministry, joseph faithfully trained Jesus to follow in his footsteps, just like he would a natural-born son. because of joseph, Jesus most likely had 30 years as a relatively normal human being. Jesus was our Immanuel ("God with us") in part because of joseph's role in giving Jesus a normal life.

as i think about preparing myself this advent season, i want to have joseph's faithfulness as a model before me. i want to take the things i know for sure that God wants me to do and faithfully obey. right away.

"you who bring good news to zion,
go up on a high mountain.
you who bring good news to jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of judah,
'Here is your God!'

see, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and his arm rules for him.
see, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.

he tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young."
(isaiah 40.9-11 tniv)

for the kids: talk about how good they are at obeying you! when they hear your words, do they do what you say? read the story of joseph. talk about the way he instantly obeyed what God communicated to him through the angel. obedience and faithfulness are two qualities we can develop as we prepare our hearts this advent. for an project, make a hammer out of craft foam or felt to remind us of joseph and his faithfulness in serving God as the earthly father of Christ.

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