Through Joseph’s Eyes

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    In Matthew 1:18-25 we read a stunning part of the Christmas story. It is the story of God’s messenger (an angel) appearing to Joseph (Jesus’ earthly father) in a dream, revealing to Joseph and to us some awesome truths about Jesus and his mission.

    From where Joseph was standinghe had thought it would be good to quietly divorce Mary since she was pregnantbut the life growing inside her was not his. The angel tells Joseph (in so many words) to have courage and to trust in God.

    It’s easy to see how Joseph was fearful, given Mary’s unexpected pregnancy. But once Joseph’s defenses are down and he is sleeping, the visitor in his dream informs him that Mary is with child via the Holy Spirit of God. The angel then instructs him to take Mary as his wife and to name the baby growing inside her Jesus. Despite Joseph’s fears, he trusted God and responded to his instruction with humility, obedience, and courage.

    Name Him Jesus—Because He Will Save His People from Their Sins…

    “Give him the name Jesus,” the angel says, “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus, which is the Greek form of Joshua, means the LORD saves. This text is straightforward in telling us Jesus’ mission in the world: to save people from their sins.

    Sin, it’s important to understand, is the thing that has separated humanity from God. Sin is the term scripture uses to describe how humanity has missed its purpose by choosing selfish ways above God and his desires for us. Because of God’s love for the whole world, he sent his Son Jesus to save us from our sin. This is what Christmas is all about. Jesus came into the world to seek and save the lost—you and me. Isaiah 49:6 says that God desires his salvation (through Jesus and his cross) to reach “the ends of the earth.”

    Joseph had to have the courage to admit he was one of those sinners. We all need courage enough to see that we are sinners, and that this is why Jesus came. He came to save you and me from our sin. Have you admitted your sin and asked Jesus to save you?

    We don’t always use this exact language and that’s okay. We talk about “crossing the line of faith” and becoming a Christian and a Christ follower. These are all fine ways to describe the same thing. The important thing not to miss is that all human beings are sinners and Jesus (the sinless Son of God) is the only one who can save us. As Pastor Steve has said many times while preaching, “Jesus is the only one—the only key—who can open heaven’s door to us.”

    Reflect:

    Here are two verses for you to ponder personally:

    “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

    If you have never crossed the line of faith, are you willing to pray something like the following prayer to God?

    “God, I am a sinner and I don’t love you with all my heart, mind, body, and soul. I don’t love my neighbor as myself. I understand my sin has separated me from you, therefore, I need you, Jesus. So I accept you and the forgiveness you offer me freely by your grace. Right now, I simply trust in you to be my Savior and Lord. Amen.”

    It takes courage and it takes faith to admit these things because it means throwing out your old self-image and receiving a new one through Jesus Christ. Receiving Jesus means entering into a personal relationship with him. This is the relationship that changes everything. It is the foundation for all the other things that Jesus can bring into your life—all the comfort, all the hope, all the joyful humility, all the guidance, and everything else.

    If the words of the prayer above helped you to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, please let us know so we can praise God with you and suggest next steps here at Living Word.

    God With Us

    The angel told Joseph that Jesus’ mission is to save people from their sins.

    And Matthew quotes the Old Testament prophet Isaiah (from Isaiah 7:14). This is where we learn that the baby Jesus will be the promised “Immanuel,” which is Hebrew for God with us. This is the most significant statement of Jesus’ identity. Take a few moments to read the following points and reflect on the Bible verses provided.

    The three extraordinary parts of Jesus being GOD WITH US are:

    • Jesus is GOD. He is God. Jesus is part of the glorious trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. His followers have always believed he is God (2 Peter 1:1, Colossians 2:9). Jesus knew his own divinity (John 8:58).

    • Jesus is one of US. He is human. Jesus is fully and truly God and fully and truly human. But he laid aside his glory to become a man. He accepted hardship, suffering, pain, loneliness, abandonment, stress, ill-treatment, and ultimately death, all so he could come to fulfill his mission, which is to save us from our sins (Hebrews 2:17-18).

    • Jesus is God WITH us. This is so beautiful. Jesus comes to be in relationship with us. He does this so we can know him, know his life, flourish in him… and with him. There is true joy, hope, and life with Jesus. It was for you and me that Jesus came and ultimately went so courageously to the cross. It is all because he loves you. He came to be with you—not to bring judgment, but to bear it. He came to pay the penalty for your sins, to take away the barrier between God and humanity, so you can be with him (Mark 3:14).

    Life With God

    Jesus is Immanuel—God with us. And he invites each of us to live life with God. Read and reflect on this lengthy quote from Skye Jethani’s book With:
    The advent of Jesus Christ is what sets Christianity apart from other religions. We affirm that Christ is indeed Immanuel, God with us, and that in him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. He is the image of the invisible God. And with Jesus, an entirely different way of relating to God is revealed to us. Rather than stumbling in the darkness between forms of religion that are each a variation of fear and control… through Christ the lights are turned on and our attention is drawn to an entirely different vision—LIFE WITH GOD. J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, often employed a storytelling device he called eucatastrophe. A catastrophe is an unexpected evil, but Tolkien added the Greek prefix eu- meaning “good” to express the unexpected appearing of goodness. He defined it as ‘the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings you to tears.’ It has this effect on us ‘because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth’ in which we ‘feel a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back.’ To use Tolkien’s language, the coming of Jesus Christ was a eucatastrophe. He is the light that gives us a sudden glimpse of truth. Our humanly devised ways of relating to God that never seem to satisfy are revealed to be out of joint. But in Christ, things suddenly snap into place and the result is joy.

    For Further Exploration

    For those of you reading this who are interested in reflecting deeper and longer on both God with us and living life with God, here is a long passage from the introduction of the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible (used here with permission from Renovaré, renovare.org).

    Life "With God": The Immanuel Principle

    The Bible is all about human life “with God.” It is about how God has made this “with-God” life possible and will bring it to pass. In fact, the name Immanuel, meaning in Hebrew “God is with us,” is the title given to the one and only Redeemer, because it refers to God’s everlasting intent for human life—namely, that we should be in every aspect a dwelling place of God. Indeed, the unity of the Bible is discovered in the development of life “with God” as a reality on earth, centered in the person of Jesus. We might call this the Immanuel Principle of life. This dynamic, pulsating, with-God life is on nearly every page of the Bible. To the point of redundancy, we hear that God is with his people: with Abraham and Moses, with Esther and David, with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Micah, Haggai, and Malachi, with Mary, Peter, James, and John, with Paul and Barnabas, with Priscilla and Aquila, with Lydia, Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Phoebe, and with a host of others too numerous to name. . . . For example, what do the first eleven chapters of Genesis tell us about this with-God kind of life? And how are the particular stories about Cain or Noah, for example, relevant? Then we need to consider the Pentateuch as a whole, and the transition to Abraham, then to Moses, then to Joshua. What is really happening here in terms of the Immanuel Principle? Exactly how is God with us in these stories? What does Leviticus mean from the perspective of the Immanuel Principle? What are we to learn from the conquest of the Land of Promise and the manner in which it was carried out? Or from the period of the judges and the amazing persons and stories involved? What of Ruth and Esther, of Hosea and Nehemiah? What was happening for the individual’s life with God between Malachi and Matthew? What was happening in the People of God as a whole? What was happening with God’s purposes in human history? Certainly the world into which Jesus was born was remarkably different from the one in which Malachi lived. What unique perspective does the intertestamental period bring to the Immanuel Principle? What did it do to prepare the word for Jesus’ birth? Then on to the New Testament documents, up to Revelation, which God gave to Jesus to show to his people (Revelation 1:1). In these documents the biblical presentation of life with God comes to its fullness and completion. How, we may ask, do we read Luke or Romans or Revelation in the light of the Immanuel Principle? The People of God—this all-inclusive community of loving persons—are seen in the New Testament as “God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22, NIV). Even the fulfillment of God’s purposes for humanity beyond human history is portrayed: “’Now the dwelling of God is with human beings, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’” (Revelation 21:3, NIVI). And so we discover that the Immanuel Principle is, after all, a cosmic principle that God has used all along in creation and redemption. It alone serves to guide human life aright on earth now and even illuminates the future of the universe. Source: The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible, Foster, Richard (Ed.), © 2005, pp. xxvii-xxviii.
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