I’m not talking about the yearly war over the last Teaser in a box of Celebrations. Or those annual games of charades, as you desperately work-off all that turkey. I’m not even talking about the countless nativity plays. I’m talking about the Christ’s birth.
Jesus didn’t enter the world through the lens of a Victorian Christmas card. He wasn’t born in a hygienic stable; he wasn’t quickly surrounded by well-groomed, well-manicured shepherds. We know that! We’re told that every year. But, how many times have you thought about Joseph? Jesus’s adopted father wasn’t exactly stoic. Joseph didn’t pull a stiff-upper lip. This David-son didn’t simply grin and bear Mary’s pregnancy. Like two people, desperately battling over a Christmas cracker, there’s real tension here. Everything could snap.
See, Mary’s pregnant. Her soon-to-be husband, Joseph; he isn’t the father. Mary’s claiming: “the child’s from the Holy Spirit!”. But Joseph’s not buying it. He’s been raised by fireside tales of Red Sea crossings, Goliath killings, and Exile endings. He looks around his country, and he knows there’s no more prophets. God’s silence is all Joseph’s countrymen know. There’s no chance God would suddenly start speaking again. There’s no chance He’d come down to someone like Mary. There’s no chance this baby could be from the Holy Spirit. There’s only one option for Joseph. The Law’s got to come first. That’s what God would want, right?
So, “Joseph resolved to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19).
Six simple words we quickly rush over. But, pause. Because God’s redemptive plan seems to be unravelling.
If Joseph divorces Mary, even quietly, there’s going to be some legal noise. The Law is clear: if Mary’s lying, she’s got to be stoned (Deuteronomy 22:20-21). If Joseph refuses to believe Mary, she’ll be left to the mob. A zealous town might resolve to uphold the Law. And then, the eternal Son would die in His mother’s womb. He’d never be a “high priest [able] to sympathise with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15), nor would he have “learned obedience through what He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). If Joseph divorces Mary, God’s covenant isn’t just broken; it’s powerless. If Mary’s left to the mob, Jesus might never become “the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9).
Six little words: “Joseph resolved to divorce her quietly”. These six words usher us into the drama of Christmas. Everything hangs on the edge of a knife. If we miss this, we’ll overlook the amazing glory of the God who intervenes in world history for our good. We’ll ignore the assurance that God’s Word achieves its end. We’ll fail to see how God upholds His covenant promises in Christ’s birth. So, is God’s covenant secure? Is His Word true? Can we trust Him?
The answer resounds: yes! Because God intervenes. “But as Joseph considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife” (Matthew 1:20). Or, as the ancient carol “When Righteous Joseph Wedded Was” puts it: “Then Joseph he to shun the shame/Thought her for to forsake/But then God’s Angel in a dream/His mind did undertake”. God, in His sovereignty, intervenes.
God controls the drama. God shapes the route of history. When everything, to us, appears like it’s unravelling, God shows His magnificent universal Kingship. There’s no doubt: God is absolutely sovereign. The basis for all our trust is the God, who in His sovereignty, intervenes for our good and His glory.
This Christmas, don’t flatten out the story. See it, in all its drama. Because only then will your vision of the glory of God expand and thrive. His covenant is secure. His Word is true. If we can trust God in His provision, and protection, of a Saviour when the fullness of time had arrived; then, we can trust in the unending certainty of our justification, sanctification and glorification through union with the one called “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).