Matthew 1:18-25. 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Waiting can be confusing.
But advents remove confusion.
Joseph had to be confused. The story Mary was telling must have made no sense to him whatsoever. Especially coming from an upstanding girl like her. Why this story? Why now? All his plans were in place. Get betrothed. Build the house. Start the business. Get married. THEN make babies. And live happily ever after.
God in his great grace has chosen to break into our confusing earthly reality. All throughout history and scripture God has entered into time and space. It would seem that this would just add to the confusion. But whenever an angelic advent occurs, whenever God arrives, we gain enlightenment. Yes, the spiritual realm can seem confusing, but the truth is when we look at life without the eyes of faith to see the deeper spiritual realities, we will stay locked up in greater confusion.
This is exactly what Joseph experienced. Before the angel appeared he thought he had all the information he was going to get. He considered it over and over. But when the angel arrived Joseph learned the spiritual truths that he simply didn’t know before. Truths concerning the Spirit’s role in Mary’s pregnancy – that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Truths about who this baby would be – he will save his people from their sins. The greatest of spiritual truths about the incarnation itself – they shall call his name Immanuel,” which means, God with us.
Dream of Joseph (1645), Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669).
These spiritual realities may seem to add confusion but actually they eliminate it. God with us (the incarnation) may seem confusing at first hearing, but actually it is the God with us alone that allows life to make any kind of sense.
Where does life come from?
What is the meaning of life?
Why do we exist?
What is love?
How can we live forever?
How will we all be saved from ourselves?
How does God feel about us?
How can there be forgiveness and yet justice?
How can Jesus die for the sins of humanity?
What happens to us when we die?
God with us answers all of these questions and more.
What questions do you have about God today? God with us answers them. What questions do you have about yourself today? God with us answers them too.
And here’s the best part about advent – the answers to these biggest questions in life are also the answers to the ever day questions of life. When we know why we exist, we then know how to exist. When we know what happens when we die, we then know how to live. When we know that God is with us, we then know how to be with others. When we understand God’s incarnation into our suffering, we then know how to incarnate into the suffering of those around us.
Isn’t this exactly what happened with Joseph? His very immediate question of what to do about Mary was answered by the very immeasurable answer of God with us. How? Because the most improbable answer ever given to a person, “God will be with us,” is the one answer we need the most. It’s the answer we need in order to be empowered to live and love as God does. It’s the answer Joseph needed in order to serve and guard Mary and the baby Jesus. It’s the answer he needed in order to raise the Son of God. It’s the answer he needed in order to see past simple law keeping to faith.
And it’s still the one answer we all need to live our lives today, tomorrow, and forever. And praise God, the angelic answer to Joseph is the same answer that we have all heard in Christ. God with us. God IN us. Christ in you. Christ in you your reason, meaning, purpose, love, forgiveness, righteousness, and peace.
What in your life is confusing to you? What about God is confusing to you? How can the incarnation, salvation from sin, God with us, begin to remove all your confusion?
Can you hear the angel say to you today, “do not be confused…for you have been saved from your sins”?