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In the Pit

IMG_0001.JPGEver been in a pit?

Joseph was once in a pit … actually it was a well, but really, once you are in one what it is called does not matter anymore. It is dark, cold, full of creepy crawlies, and you’re alone.

Joseph had been thrown into the well by a band of angry thugs … his brothers.

Ever felt thrown into a well by someone you loved?

He was just a young man, the eldest of his mother, Rachel, the pride and joy of his father Jacob (Israel). Joseph had done nothing to deserve such a violent act of thoughtless sibling abandonment.

Ever felt that you were an innocent victim?

He was a good son, followed all the rules, even reported to his father when his older half-brothers were not. He had won his father’s favor, simply by being the firstborn of Jacob’s beloved Rachel.

Ever felt like you were being punished for the heartache of another?

He was a dreamer. Joseph dreamed of things to come, dreams that made the eyes of his brother roll, and confirm their ire for he and his superiority complex.

Ever feel like who you are created to be pushed you into the pit you are in?

Did Joseph’s rule following help him in the dampness of the pit?

Where were Joseph’s grand dreams when he looked up from the darkness he had been thrown into?

Where was Joseph’s protective and loving father, as he realized he was being hoisted out, not to end a cruel joke, but because his very own brothers sold him into slavery?

Sometimes, like Joseph, stuff happens in our life and we feel as though we have been thrown into a pit. Sometimes, having the best of intentions, the best of behaviors, the joy of being loved by family and friends, the greatest of gifts and abilities, are not the insurance of being able to live our lives in the light that we might have hoped that they would be.

Sometimes, we fall into the pit.

Sometimes, we are pushed.

Sometimes, the extended hand that lifts us out, is one that lands us in slavery.

That can all be rather dire.

But Joseph was never alone, not in that pit, not as a slave, not in an Egyptian prison.

God was there, and God’s stories are always centered around the theme of redemption, re-making, renewing.

After Joseph had provided opportunity for his brothers to prove that they had changed, after he was reunited with his father, Jacob, and after his father had died and was buried, redemption came for Joseph’s brothers.

Genesis 50:20 tells us that Joseph said to his brothers, “you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good …”

When we are in the pit we need to remember that we are not there alone, and we need to remember that God has a plan … for good to come from evil.

 

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I cannot imagine the insecurities of Joseph, the husband of Mary (Matthew 1:16). The man was not only the earthly father-figure of the Messiah, but he was also married to the Virgin Mary, who was chosen by God, to be the vessel through which God would come to Earth! That, is alot to live with under one roof!

Really, I do wonder about Joseph. I wonder what kind of a man he was. I wonder what he thought about his virgin fiance being with child. I wonder if he felt like he was father to Jesus. I wonder if he felt his role was understated. I wonder if he felt it difficult to correct Jesus, as a child (or did he need correction?). I wonder if he felt used, unjustly treated, minimalised.

The Bible really says little of Joseph, but I do not think that his role is minimal, after all he was chosen, by God, to be the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus as well as to do all that an earthly father does for his child. Joseph married his fiance (knowing that the child she was carrying was NOT his), worked to earn an income, helped to raise Jesus, and moved around whenever he had a dream telling him to.

Matthew 1:18-19 gives the main account of Joseph’s part in the birth of Jesus:

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly …”

Being engaged to a pregnant woman during those biblical times was not a politically correct position to be in. He could have had her stoned (adultery), he could have left her publically, but he didn’t want her to ‘disgrace’ her (most of that time would think that it was she who disgraced him), so he planned to divorce her quietly.

Matthew 1:20

“But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit “…”

Joseph is one of the small, elite group of people of the Bible who have been given a message through an angel of the Lord. He did not ask for it, he had already made the honorable decision about what to do with his Mary, before any angel entered his dream world. He is also of the line of David, a royal line that was part of the big picture plan of God.

Matthew 1:21-23

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”) …”

Joseph did not even get to choose the name of the child that his betrothed was to give birth too. Even that was not in his power or choosing … but, he did it!

Matthew 1:24

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife …”

He married her! He did not divorce her quietly, but he took her to his home. This would increase suspicion that the child that Mary was carrying was his … he put himself in a position of public ridicule.

Matthew 1:25

“But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

Hum, how do I expand on this point … ? So, Joseph … a young man … pregnancy takes nine months … Joseph takes her home as his wife around three-four months … so they would be married, without consummating their vows for about four months before the baby was born, and then another two weeks after the birth (before her ritual bath). So, married? Yes. Joseph experiencing marital physical closeness? No. Enough said!

Joseph was a man, chosen by God, because God knew that Joseph was an honorable man, who (obviously) sought to ensure the validity of God’s plan. And really, I doubt he was full of insecurities … I expect that he understood what it was to fully seek God’s will for his life.

What an amazing man he was!


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images-10At this time of year, I am looking for many things … free time, peace, relaxation, togetherness as a family, and a holy night experience.

This holy night experience is one which the Christmas Carol describes. It is one when “the stars are brightly shining” (that means no rain).

It is one that, if you go for a nighttime walk, you can almost imagine being there, in Bethlehem. The stars are brightly shining, and you follow quietly behind that young couple; he leading the beast who is as burdened as the young woman atop it, both feeling the weight of what they carry.

You see them enter the town gates, you see the relief flash on Joseph’s face, the relief that allows him to breath deeply, just as his lady beside him, breathing as the women in her hometown instructed her to, when the pains began.

As you follow along behind you feel the disappointment from the lack of vacancy in the first inn that Joseph inquired. Ah, but there are so many, he will just try again … and again … and … again.

There is no room for them. Mary tries to put on a brave face through the physical pains, feeling hope slip away. Joseph tries to put on a brave face, through the feelings of discouragement at not being able to provide for his increasingly suffering wife.

Finally, an option. An innkeeper offers a warm, dry, safe place … I wonder if Joseph felt the relief of finding a place, and the regret of having to tell his laboring wife that all he could find was a cave-like stable … I wonder if he felt thankfulness for the provision or failure that he was only able to offer a dirty animal refuge for the arrival of the son of God.

“Oh, hear the angel voices” … could Mary and Joseph hear and what was happening on the hillside outside of Bethlehem as it flooded with the light of the angelic chorus singing “sweet hymns of praise”?

As I imagine crouching in the corner of the stable, I try to read the expressions on the faces of the new parents. Their eyes filled with relief, and delight, no longer aware of their rustic conditions, no longer aware of anything except each other and the beautiful new child in their arms.

What were they thinking as they gazed into his eyes? Were their thoughts simply the thoughts of all new parents since the beginning of time, or were they looking at this child and seeing him as Christ?

Then the shepherds arrive, falling on their knees, telling their story of angels on the hillside. Praising his name, as the one who will “break the chains … cease oppression.”

If the new parents showed no acknowledgment of their son’s paternity and purpose earlier, I can almost imagine them looking at each other with wordless acknowledgment of what the other was thinking. Oh, the holy ground that they were on!

“Oh night divine,
Oh night,
Oh night divine”

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As I contemplate today about the first family, I am not referring to Will and Kate’s or  Barack and Michelle Obama’s family, I am referring to the first family of Christmas …

images-7

This first family of Christmas was a unique family, one that was never before, and will not be again. Certainly there have been families that began with a teenage pregnancy, or a long trip (our honeymoon trip was a car drive from New Brunswick to Yellowstone National Park …), or concern for the future, or without a place to live, but never was there a family like this first family of Christmas.

Never was there a family who began from such simple means, with such great purpose.

Joseph was a carpenter, a respected, necessary profession in that time, but not an esteemed position in that society. It is a fair guess that Mary would not have been from a household that was ‘above’ that of Joseph, as marrying beyond your class or level in society would not have been acceptable. They were simple, average Jews, living within the expectations and laws of their place, time and culture. They were engaged, thinking of and preparing for their wedding day, but engagement was a little different than what we know of engagement today. To be engaged then meant that you were already married in the eyes of society, in the eyes of the synagogue, in the eyes of God. And, even though if Joseph had died, Mary would be viewed a widow. They did not live together … they barely spoke to each other, and certainly not alone.

Mary was a virgin.

This was written the book of Luke, and it was the fulfillment of the prophesy in Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14):

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Joseph was a righteous man.

This meant that he obeyed the laws, followed the rules, was respected in the community. For him to choose to wed his pregnant Mary was to live his days as disgraced as she. His response to the angelic messengers who told him that the conception was from the Holy Spirit (relieving him of feeling disrespected by his betrothed) and the direction for Joseph to give the baby boy the name Jesus was evidence of just how righteous he really was, from the inside out.

“He (Joseph) did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24-25)images-9

The entirety of the formation of this first family was in the hands of God, who provided the seed in Jesus, who grew into the life source of redemption for all of humanity.

Isaiah 11:1-10
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

On that day
the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples;
the nations shall inquire of him,
and his dwelling shall be glorious.”

 

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