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Conceived by the Holy Spirit Part Two (Matt. 1:18-25)

December 7, 2011

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Wednesday of Advent 2

7 December 2011                                                                                                    


+Jesu Juva +


St. Matthew 1:18-25 “Conceived by the Holy Spirit” Part Two


“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about:  His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph.” 


“Pledged to be married.”  That was so much more than what we know as an engagement. In those days the pledge was this:  Mary and Joseph publicly spoke vows of marriage – i.e. in full view of witnesses.  And so they were already regarded as husband and wife.  However, the marriage ceremony would take place months later and only then would the couple be allowed to enjoy their marriage life together as one flesh!


What joy!  Joseph, you remember is a descendant of King David!  A royal wedding is in the works!  Loads of excitement!  A wedding dress to be made!  Cakes to be baked!  Meat to be smoked!  Fish to be caught!  Invitations to be sent!  The reception hall reserved!  Rings bought!  A house to live in!  And the rabbi to lead the service!  So far so good.  But that’s when it gets a little dicey!  “But before they came together,” (i.e. before they were married and celebrated a honeymoon) “she [Mary] was found to be with child.” 


Word has leaked out.  Joseph finds out!


Can you imagine?  What is Joseph to conclude?  There is only one explanation!  And that is this:  Mary has committed adultery!  She has slept with another man and been unfaithful to Joseph!  What other reason could there be?  None, as far as Joseph is concerned.


This is a huge scandal!  Can you imagine the outrage? The hurt?  The feelings of betrayal? Mary is pregnant!  And Joseph had nothing to do with it! This is a deal breaker!  The wedding must be stopped!  And the relationship ended.  Divorce is the only answer. 


But it won’t be nasty. No revenge.  No pay back.  No tit for tat.  Joseph “is a righteous man.” 


Even though he is deeply hurt and probably hasn’t slept in weeks – incredibly — he puts Mary first.  The text states:  “he did not want to expose her [Mary] to public disgrace” so, “he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”  Joseph will have the lawyer draw up the divorce papers and he will sign them.  The marriage will be dissolved. 


But it will all be hush-hush.  No one needs to know.  Why?  Joseph wants to protect Mary from being brought before the court, charged with adultery, and then stoned to death according to Old Testament law (Deuteronomy 22:23-24).  In other words, Joseph does not want Mary blamed and held accountable.  Divorce but not death!  Joseph is exceptionally merciful.     


In fact, by deciding to divorce Mary quietly, unguilty Joseph appears ready to take on himself the social shame and guilt of the failed betrothal.  In other words, Joseph seems to want people to believe that the breakup of the marriage is his fault.  That he is responsible for Mary getting pregnant before the wedding proper.  So that he takes the heat not Mary!  So that he takes the arrows – the stones – the punishment instead of Mary! 


But that’s when the Lord intervenes!  Nice plan Joseph!  Really!  But the Lord has other plans. 


Finally, on a night when Joseph can sleep, “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.”   


Like Mary, Joseph now has a Word from the Lord!  Yes, Mary is pregnant.  She is going to have a child.  But she hasn’t been unfaithful to you Joseph.  A miracle has taken place.  The Holy Spirit conceived the baby growing in her belly!


And last week we rejoiced how that exactly took place according to the Gospel according to St. Luke.  The Holy Spirit was at work doing the conceiving of the Baby Jesus in Mary’s womb through the preached Word of God into Mary’s ear holes!  I.E. the Baby Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit as the sermon was preached by the archangel Gabriel into Mary’s ears! 


Everyone knows that girls don’t get pregnant that way.  Can you imagine the ridicule, scorn, and disbelief Mary and Joseph encountered?  “And how is it that you are pregnant Mary?  What did you say Joseph?  That the Holy Spirit did it?  Someone call social services!  Somebody get a shrink for these idiots!  They are a danger to themselves, the child she bears, and society!”  Society makes straight jackets and paints rubber rooms pink for adults who make such claims!  Society either forcibly aborts or takes away children from parents like these who insanely assert the Holy Spirit conceived their baby!  Next thing you know they’ll be talking about UFOs and space aliens!   


And yet, Mary and Joseph, both trust God’s Word here.  They believe that what God has said is absolutely true:  the Baby Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Spirit.”


And even more!  They both believe that this Baby growing in Mary’s belly is God Himself in the flesh!  Immanuel!  God with us!  To save His people and all people from their sins!  Just as God’s Word from the prophet Isaiah predicted!  “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord has 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.’”   




Why?  To save sinners from their sins.  I.E. to grant them forgiveness!  And with forgiveness – salvation!  The greatest moments in the history of the world take place here!  God is at work!  At work in the world!  Hiddenly but truly there in the belly of the Virgin Mary!  For nine months!  To give sinners salvation in and through that Baby Jesus who is true God and true man – God with us – Immanuel!


What is there left for Joseph to do?  He did what the angel of the Lord told him to do.  He didn’t divorce Mary!  He took her home as his wife.  But they did not have sexual relations during this time.  Mary remained a virgin all throughout the pregnancy.  And they waited.  Patiently.  For the Baby to be born.  And when that time came Joseph gave Him the name Jesus.  The name “Jesus” means “God saves.”  And that’s precisely what Jesus does.  He is God and He saves you from all your sin!  All because He took on human flesh and then went to the Cross and died for you!


In the Name of Jesus.     


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