It is the hinge of history, the one happening that all of time is measured by. Buechner says, “…you date your letters and checks and income tax forms with a number representing how many years have gone by since what happened happened.” Pre Dec. 25th we call B.C., Before Christ. Post Dec. 25th we call A.D., after the Year of the Lord.
And yet as obvious as it is to find God’s birth on our calendars, many of us are still lost about where to find Jesus in our own lives. Lost in the troughs of Eggnog and the piles of Christmas cookies, lost in the blue light specials and the plastic Santas.
It is easy to get lost this time of year, especially if you’re looking in the wrong places.
Matthew 1:18-25 Now 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. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But 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. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;* and he named him Jesus.
What makes Joseph a righteous man?
Didn’t do what the Bible said and have Mary stoned.
Showed his love rather than just talking about love.
He didn’t protect his reputation by ruining hers.
Karl Valentin told this story: The curtain goes up and reveals darkness; and in this darkness is a solitary circle of light thrown by a street lamp. Valentin, with his long-drawn and deeply worried face, walks round and round this circle of light desperately looking for something. “What have you lost?” a policeman asks. “The keys to my house,” upon which the policeman joins the search. They find nothing, and after a while he inquires: “Are you sure you lost it here?” “No,” says Valentin, pointing to a dark corner of the stage, “over there.” “Then why on earth are you looking for it here?” “There’s no light over there,” says Valentin.
“Now [Jesus] was there,” says Bonhoeffer, “not as a mighty one, but in the obscurity of humanity. Where there is sinfulness, weakness, wretchedness and misery in the world. That’s where God goes. And there he lets himself be found by everyone.”
What makes Joseph a righteous man?
In 1 A.D., he’s the first follower of faith to say with his decision and discipleship, “X marks the spot. Here, right here.”
Here, where your trust is betrayed and covenant compromised, where your reputation is scandalized and name is ruined, where your future feels framed.
Here, where your virgin betrothed keeps missing her periods and where the lawyer is drawing up divorce papers.
Here, where the destruction of your life has taken a drastic detour.
In the havoc and chaos, the mess and muck of it all, that’s where God goes. That’s where Jesus is born. That’s where the Savior you’re seeking is found.
Let us pray: O’ God, the world preaches that faithfulness requires a buttoned-up life and a sanitized spirit. And yet, your Gospel proclaims a different truth, that you choose to be born into the brokenness, to be found in the mess. Emmanuel, you are God with us where we are scared, God with us where we are lost, God with us where the plan has not gone according to plan. For that Good News, we give thanks.