… Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Prepare to Listen. Light all 4 colored candles. Let this prayer prepare you to listen: Save us, O God of our salvation, that we may give thanks to your holy name.
Prayerfully Read Matthew 1:18-25
18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.” It’s a promising beginning, but then little about that birth. Instead, we read about Joseph, whom, we’re told, was a righteous man. Today I think many of us have a negative idea about ‘righteous people.’ The ones we know demand rigid adherence to their standards of morality, and punish or threaten violence to the disobedient. But that’s not the biblical understanding of righteous. And that's not how Joseph behaved, even though he assumed Mary had sinned against him. Because he was righteous, he acted with compassion not condemnation. He was “unwilling to expose her to public disgrace [therefore], planned to dismiss her quietly.”
The angel changed his mind, telling him to do two things. One, take Mary to be his wife “for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit,” not unfaithfulness. Two, “you are to name him Jesus.” The name Jesus was common, the Greek version of the Hebrew Joshua. It means the one who saves, and hints at what Jesus would do. Like Joshua of old, he’ll lead us into the ‘promised land,’ the Kingdom of God. When we say Jesus, we’re calling on him to save us and lead us to his Kingdom.
Naming Mary’s son meant Joseph was to accept and raise him as his own. He obeyed and the climax of Jesus’ birth story is: “and he named him Jesus.” A righteous man who acted with compassion and named the Son of God, Jesus.
Wonder about the home Jesus was born into and the influence of a father who is characterized by one word: righteous.
Respond in Prayer
Lord Jesus, forgive me when I think I’m righteous by condemning those who don’t adhere to my standards of morality. Help me act with compassion, like Joseph. Amen.
Live Obediently. Like Joseph, be a righteous, compassionate person.
Reading my Bible has been central in my life since I received my first Bible at 8 years of age. My decades of reading, studying and teaching the Bible gives my devotions a unique and enriching perspective. Reflecting on Jesus' family tree enriched my understanding of Jesus and the salvation he offers.