Daily Devotion for December 23, 2010
Two Days Until Christmas
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare before Him my trouble.
Matthew 1:18-25 (New King James Version)
Christ is Born of Mary
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows:
After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
Notes on the Scripture
The word betrothed means something very similar to what we would call "engaged" today. But it was more binding; it was a legal contract. Even as late as 100 years ago in our own society, people rarely got stood up at the altar or broke an engagement; it happened, but it usually generated a lawsuit for breach of promise. In Hebrew culture of Joseph and Mary's day, the period of betrothal was at least nine months, for a specific reason: to ensure that the bride was not pregnant by another man and could thus be presumed to be a virgin.
The betrothal process, thus, was partly an assurance to the groom that he would not find himself responsible for another man's child. But poor Joseph. He was obviously fond of his bride-to-be and had not slept with her, when suddenly he faced the prospective groom's worst nightmare: his fiancee was pregnant, but not by him. But what a man Joseph proved to be; he loved Mary so much, that instead of breaking the engagement (which was the main purpose of the betrothal), he hid her from sight, so that she would not suffer the disgrace of her condition. The verse is not clear whether he still planned to marry her; possibly, the words "put her away" imply that he would break the betrothal, possibly not. Deuteronomy 24 does not require that divorce be public.
Or perhaps, more likely, he was confused and uncertain and was trying to make up his mind what to do, because today's Scripture says that the angel came to him "when he considered this".
So why was Joseph so willing to trust a dream he had? Matthew says, "All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet." This rang a bell with Joseph; every Hebrew knew the words of the great prophets Isaiah and Micah, and knew that the redeemer would be born to a virgin. So he was faced with the rather mind-boggling possibility that he would be the stepfather of God made flesh. Joseph was clearly a righteous man, because not only did he take Mary as his wife, but he allowed her to remain a virgin until after Jesus was born.
We don't find out very much about Joseph and Mary after this. They certainly lived in the fear of God, and went through quite an ordeal to keep Jesus safe from harm, moving to a foreign country (Egypt) on a moment's notice. And we know that they traveled to attend religious festivals, because we see them traveling when Christ was 12 years old. But after that, they were a fairly normal couple. They don't appear to have been either rich or poor. We do know that Jesus had younger siblings, so obviously they entered into a normal conjugal relationship, and had more children.
It is a bit heartwarming to think of this young man woman thrust into these extraordinary circumstances; and on this day, we especially remember Mary, who gave birth to her first child, the child of God, lying on a pile of straw in a smelly stable. We are reminded of the humility of Christ's birth, by being told that his first bed was a feed bin. The human side of Christ was an object lesson to all who would come to believe in him; the humility he preached was a humilty he had lived.