It’s tempting to want to pass over Matthew’s sparse story of Jesus’ birth in favour of more detailed accounts. At this time of year, familiar images like stables, mangers, shepherds and angels fill our music, movies and greeting cards. What are we supposed to do about Joseph, struggling with his fear and uncertainty over the strange thing that happened to Mary?
The words left unspoken here are every bit as problematic as the ones Matthew includes. This story is really all about Joseph facing the most critical decision of his life. He’s just been asked to believe that a supernatural power somehow made his wife-to-be pregnant. Feeling bewildered and perhaps humiliated, he could easily have denounced her, as still happens in conservative societies today. Instead, he slept on the problem and in a dream experienced his own supernatural encounter. Joseph’s waking decision was a courageous one. Against all odds, given the social and religious traditions of his day, he chose to trust in an angel’s promise-a promise too amazing to fully understand. Joseph’s faith took him where habit and reason could not, and the miracle of Christ’s birth happened.
Lord, be with us in those moments when we need faith and trust in you to make decisions with which our reason alone can't cope. Amen. — PF