On Christmas Eve we stand in a long deep European tradition of beautiful music. The crowd who gather at Nedlands Uniting are even more international than that. The songs and readings proclaim the global significance of a little Jewish boy. Here is one of the ancient texts about that boy.
Matthew 1:18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 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. 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 be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
I am always wondering what it must have been like to be there. In my Bible story today, I am going to be Joe, the father on earth of baby Jesus, and you are going to be …you.
It was a hell of a shock for a bloke. I couldn’t talk about it at all for a while. But I can tell you my story now. You know, one minute your life’s going along, everything’s sweet, just like you planned. Working hard and loving it, doing up the house ready to carry the little woman across the threshold and live happily ever after. And the next minute you’ve been kicked in the guts.
I hear our story’s been told a million times over. Bit embarrassing really. I think it was about six months into our engagement that it happened. Mary hadn’t been herself for over a week. It wasn’t just her bad time of the month. She was all withdrawn and anxious-looking and every time I asked she said: ‘nothing’.
Well, I got sick of that and told her: ‘If we’re gonna be married you have to trust me with whatever it is. I can handle it’. Got that one wrong. I was thinking that maybe she didn’t like the colour I’d painted the kitchen or something, but nothing could have prepared me for what it was.
She burst in to tears and blurted out, “I’m pregnant!” Geez, I can still remember the feeling in my guts. Like someone pulled a plug and all my innards fell into my boots. I felt like I was falling backwards – falling into a bottomless black hole. She was talking at a hundred to the minute but I couldn’t hear a word.
In case you’re wondering, it couldn’t have been me. Mt brain kept picturing her taken by some other bloke. I can’t remember what I said first. “How could you do this?” or “Who is the mongrel?” or something like that. I wanted to kill him. How stupid was that!?
Well the first shock was bad enough, but her explanation was like salt in an open wound. She swore black and blue that she’d not been with any other man, that she was still a virgin and that she still wanted only me. Well it isn’t rocket science, I do know how babies are made, and I was angry enough already without copping this sort of rubbish. She saw the look on my face and she started blubbering desperately about an angel and God Ruach Hakodesh being the father of the baby in her womb and the time for the Messiah and she had agreed to go along with God’s will. Well that was too much for me, bedding some other bloke was bad enough, but now she was insulting God. I think I must have just screamed at her to get out ‘cos she fled. She didn’t deserve that, I’m ashamed to say.
I didn’t sleep that night. Every time I closed my eyes I was falling down that black hole. But by morning, I had cooled down a bit. But I just went numb. Ice-man. I tried in vain to think about what to do next.
By mid afternoon I knew I could never demand that she go through a public shaming. She’d be dragged before the townsfolk and her offence spelt out. She’d never be welcome anywhere again. They’d turn their backs on her in the market and everything. She’d be destitute… But still, I couldn’t bear to do that to her.
That night I had decided – I’d just divorce her quietly. It would still be pretty humiliating for me, but I couldn’t do the whole public disgrace thing. Two mates as a character reference and a rabbi to sign the papers – that was all it would take. I’d get over it. That’s what I’d do. Divorce her quietly and get over it. Just work longer hours and stop myself from thinking about it too much. It was decided then. As I went to bed I planned to send Mary a message in the morning with my decision. On the pillow I wondered how she was feeling tonight.
Well that night was bizarre. I fell asleep OK. But I was dreaming like nothing on earth. And in the middle of the dream suddenly I was wide awake. There was this huge bloke standing over me. Looked like nothing you’ve ever seen. Dressed in lightning. Overpowering holiness burnt me like a fire. And he spoke with a voice like a sword, “Joseph Davidson, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. The baby conceived in her womb is from the Holy Spirit. She’ll give birth to a son, and you will name him as your own, as a Davidson. Call him Y’shua, because he will save his people from their sins.” Then, gone.
In the morning I was sure I was losing my marbles and that the dream was just my subconscious trying to let Mary off the hook somehow. I mean hey, God doesn’t do this sort of thing. God has standards. If God’s going to take some new step into the world he’d at least be consistent or tell a rabbi, or a king, not a carpenter. No child of God is going to be born in public disgrace, is it? God is not going to grab a couple of ordinary people, stuff up their lives, throw out their dignity, and then say, “Here, look after my kid,” is he? I mean – what would be the point?
But I didn’t send the message down to Mary’s place either. Bit gutless maybe.
I was confused all day, got nothing done that I didn’t have to do all over again. It was dawning on me that just because I knew about God in the past it didn’t mean I could just go on thinking always the same. Maybe this was something new. A Messiah was prophesied. I decided to sleep on it again. And blow me down, that night, exactly the same thing happened. The big guy the holy heat the voice: “Joe Davidson, swallow your pride and marry Mary. The baby boy in her womb is from the Holy Spirit. You are to raise him as your own and name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. This is for real, this is the time that Isaiah prophesied. It’s only a little miracle – what’s too hard about that?”
I knew it was for real. Sometimes you just know. The next morning I went down to Mary’s place and told her everything. I just kept saying to her, “I believe you. God spoke to me too …twice.” This wonderful girl had said yes to God at the first invitation!
Her whole body shook, and fell against me. I held her. We decided there and then to go with God. We would raise Y’shua for our people, and we wouldn’t expect everyone to thank us. I just held her as she cried. Actually I was pretty teary myself. I just kept repeating, “God is with us. God is with us. God is with us.” Emmanuel – that’ll be his middle name. And she just kept sobbing her eyes out.
Yep. That’s what happened and that’s where it all started. That’s my story. I’ll see y’s later.
Well everyone, that’s the end of the story . It was adapted from Laughing Bird Resources with permission.
There is no truer story around. God is not against us. God is not absent. God is with us. Today again, there is a lot riding on this. We all have some mistakes that keep us humble.We all have an old need in us that must open up in a new way. Can we open up to a fresh connection with this God. For instance, we are a people who know the cost of everything and struggle to live our values. We take up sophisticated technologies, and can’t quite locate ourselves in the simple things that really matter. Yes, there is a lot riding on this – for me and you and for our people. So, what do you say – let’s do life like Christmas, like Joseph and Mary, let’s all go with God. Find out how.