Have you ever considered the Christmas story from Joseph’s perspective? In Matthew 1:18-25, we see the nativity story through Joseph’s eyes. Although Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us,” he is also the “man of sorrows” and this passage unites both of those truths perfectly. Isaiah said Jesus would be rejected by men (Isa. 53:3), and here he is even rejected by Joseph at first. Like many of us, Joseph’s first response was to reject Jesus but this soon changed as Joseph realized that Jesus was his Immanuel.
Joseph had to first confront the reality of Jesus. Imagine the shock Joseph must have experienced when he first received the news that Mary was with child. Mary had just returned from visiting her cousin, Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56), and her pregnancy is now obvious. Joseph’s initial response was to divorce Mary privately and move on with his life. Joseph and Mary were betrothed and while the couple did not live together or have marital relations during this time; a divorce was required to break the betrothal. Joseph’s decision was legal and merciful – he was trying to do the right thing while showing kindness to Mary. He was caught between law and love, conviction and compassion.
With the aid of an angelic messenger, Joseph then considered the identity of Jesus. God knew that Joseph was struggling with his circumstances and he sent an angel in a dream to help him understand who Jesus was. The angel informs Joseph of two things concerning Jesus – his natures and his names. Jesus has two natures. He is fully God and fully man. Colossians 2:9 says, “For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ.” The virgin birth allowed the divine nature and the human nature to unite in Jesus. Jesus also has two names given in these verses: Jesus and Immanuel. The name “Jesus” reveals his humanity. “Jesus” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name “Joshua” and means “Yahweh is salvation.” This is reinforced by verse 21, “…call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” The name “Immanuel” reveals his divinity. Immanuel comes from the prophecy of the virgin birth in Isaiah 7:14 and means “God with us.” There was a new name given for God. Not only is His name Yahweh, Adonai, or Elohim, but now His name is Jesus.
After Joseph awoke from his dream, he connected his life with Jesus. Joseph couldn’t respond properly before because he didn’t have all the facts. Now that he knows who Jesus is, he responds by giving his life to him. He linked his life to Jesus. He chose to repent of his decision to divorce Mary and dedicate his life to the baby she was expecting. He gave Jesus his name. He gave Jesus a home. Joseph taught Jesus a trade (Mark 6:3). Joseph connected his life completely with Jesus. This is exactly what Jesus calls us to do; deny ourselves and link our lives with His by bearing our cross and following Him (Matthew 16:24). Like Joseph, our first response to Jesus is to reject him and move on with our lives because His person and teachings go against our fallen, self-centered nature. This Christmas, let us respond as Joseph ultimately did and connect our lives with Jesus our Immanuel.
This post was originally published in the Baptist & Reflector, December 18, 2012.