The Nativity Dilemma: Joseph

The Christmas Dilemma: Joseph | Videos | The Skit Guys

“I’m not enough.”  You heard the words of Joseph.  “I’m not enough.”  Now, those words do not actually appear in the scriptures.  But it isn’t a stretch to imagine that those words could have come out of Joseph’s mouth.  This was not what he’d signed up for when he and Mary were engaged.  He was rightfully “shocked,” “hurt,” “scared” and maybe even angry.

And at this stage of our story, Joseph really is in control of the situation.  The culture in which he and Mary lived was patriarchal.  The man had control; that man had options.

You see, when we hear the word “engaged,” we think of romance…we think of a proposal, a ring and a bended knee.  But in the first century world of Joseph and Mary, being engaged was not a romantic declaration of intent.  Rather, it was a legal contract, binding in every respect.  To be engaged, or betrothed, or pledged to another was essentially to be married, without having yet consummated that marriage or having lived together.  When Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant, at first he can only conclude that she has been unfaithful to him.  And so he experiences the pain, anguish and sense of betrayal that one would expect when faced with news like this.

And while Joseph, the man, had control, he really had only two choices. He could either publicly declare his injury, in which case Mary would likely have been convicted of adultery and stoned to death.  Or, he could quietly divorce her.  In their culture, those were his two choices.  Joseph chooses quiet divorce.

But then unexpectedly, a third option arises:  In a dream, an angel appears to Joseph.  Remember that angels usually only get involved in the biblical story when there is heavy-lifting to be done, so clearly this is an important conversation.

The angel said to Joseph, “do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife.  She was not unfaithful…far from it…Mary is being extremely faithful, to God.  And this child is a gift from the Holy Spirit.”

And the angel then said to Joseph, that he was “to give the baby the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  You see, in Jewish culture, it was the male…the father who carried the responsibility of naming the child.

And so Joseph, as uncomfortable and as anxious as he was, obeyed God, and picked the third option.  He stood by Mary, and they were married, and he raised this child as his own.

There are, two kinds of people in the world:  These are those who are planners…who look ahead…to create a plan.  And there are those who are more…shall we say…spontaneous…those who excel at improvising.

Joseph, the human father of Jesus, was a planner.  He would have had to have been.  He was a carpenter.  For Joseph, everything was planned.  Everything was measured twice and cut once.  Everything was linear and logical.

Well now, Joseph, the planner, had to feel like his world was spinning out of control.  And yet here he was.  And just as Mary was picked for her role in history as Mother of our Lord, Joseph was picked…by God…to raise Jesus as his Son.

Yet, “I’m not enough,” said Joseph.

Set aside the questions of paternity…set aside the questions of the legal and social ramifications…set aside the doubt and fear.  Joseph had to wonder “can I do this?  Can I be the father to the Son of God?  The Messiah?  The one who will save the people from their sins?”

“I’m not enough.”

When have you felt like you were not enough?  When have you felt inadequate to the task in front of you?

I have.

  • I have felt inadequate any time I’ve had to make a difficult parenting decision
  • I felt inadequate after my father died, and I had to help my Mom figure out probate, and estates and insurance
  • Sometimes, I have felt inadequate when called to the bedside of the dying

We all feel inadequate.  And we say, “God, I’m not enough.”

But the story of Mary and Joseph, my friends, it reminds us that God works through real people, with real challenges.  He didn’t choose a Disney princess to bear the Savior of the world, but an unwed, peasant girl.  He didn’t choose a political or business success story to name, care for and father Jesus, but rather a man with his own doubts and questions, who wanted to do the right thing, but needed angelic guidance to accomplish it.

God chose a young couple who felt woefully inadequate to the task.  Joseph could not do anything to make himself be enough.  No, Joseph was only made enough by God, who chose him and put his faith in him.  And that, my friends, is good news.  There is nothing you can do to make yourself enough for the hard tasks in front of you.  You are only made enough by the love and grace of God; by God who chose you, and puts his faith in you.

The angel chose Joseph to name the baby “Emmanuel,” from the prophet Isaiah.  And the name Emmanuel means “God with us.”  Dr. David Lose wrote that God “comes to be with us as we are.  Not as we know we should be, or are trying to be, or have promised to be, or will be some day, but with us as we are now…today…in this moment.”

That is the promise at the heart of today’s Gospel…that God came to Joseph to be with him in the midst of his fear.  God made him enough.  And Joseph trusted that.  So also, God comes to us.  And God says to you, you…are enough.  You are enough.  Trust in that.

  • Yes, God is really with us.
  • Yes, God is really with us, as we are.
  • Yes, God makes us enough.
  • Yes, this child is our Emmanuel; our God with us.
  • Come Lord Jesus, come.

Thanks be to God!

Amen.

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