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God's Birth Plan

MT 1:18-25

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.


How tenuous was the life of our Lord on earth? From the moment of heavenly conception, however God’s power made that happen, the existence of the divine being as a human being was under threat. A woman, pregnant and not yet married! In those days! What must Joseph have thought? He was a righteous man, a man who knew that he had not done the wrong thing, as betrothed couples were not allowed to sleep together. What were his options? What would he have been feeling?

If not for the appearance of the angel to Joseph, he might have done what the law demanded, and had Mary thrown from the walls of the city and then stoned to death, on the grounds of adultery.

God’s plan to save the world could have ended there in the womb, at embryonic size. If it had been the modern day, the saviour of the world might have been aborted because he was not convenient for his parents.

What would Joseph have thought? Who got her pregnant? Here I am betrothed to a harlot, a tramp. How can she have done this to me? How can she have betrayed me with another?

But even if these thoughts went through his head, he still loved Mary enough not to disgrace her or have her killed, but instead he was going to divorce her secretly, so as not to cause her any more hardship than she had to go through. He was trying to find the honourable path: The right thing to do.

We have all had to make those decisions sometimes. Stuck in seemingly hopeless circumstances, we have to use our brains, based on the intelligence and morals that we have, to find a way out. What is the honourable path? What is the right thing to do?

But it is rare that the future of the world rests upon these decisions we have to make. This one was so important that God had to intervene through an angel, to give Joseph a hand.

But how would he react to that? How would you react? Would you believe it? Or would you worry that you were turning into one of those people that claim that God talks to them every time they have to decide between whether to have a tea or a coffee?

What a move it was for Joseph to accept the word of the angel and to marry Mary anyway.

Martin Luther said that a wicked scoundrel would not have believed the word of the angel, but passed it off as a delusion. But I think that anyone could have been tempted to pass it off in this way. Such holiness that Joseph had!

Now all these details come after the heading: This is how the birth of Jesus came about. That God had to wait so long to find such people as Mary and Joseph to choose as the ones to raise his Son was sad, but now here they were, and God knew that they were the right people, and that they would act in the right way.

So many things, so many details, great and small, had to fall into place for Jesus to be born and grow up on this earth.

All these things the prophets had foretold, and Matthew, when writing his gospel, is keen to show us these links to the prophets, and show that Jesus was, in fact, the long- promised Messiah.

If you ever hear the whole gospel of Matthew read out in one go, as a single historical document, that you realise that he has this thread running through it. Twelve times during the gospel of Matthew, he uses the words: all this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet. Twelve times. He is anchoring the events of the life of Christ firmly in the seafloor of history.

As tenuous as our Lord’s birth was, with no sanitation or medical care, in unhygienic conditions, with a cloud of suspicion hanging over his mother, with a flight to Egypt while he was still a newborn, it was all part of the plan of God. Time and time again, what looks impossible to humans is only made possible because of the timing and planning of the all-knowing and all-seeing God.

I always think that it is funny that when it is close to the time for a child to be born, you are asked to come up with a birth plan. There are some things that I am pretty sure are beyond our control, and the birth of a child is one of those things. They just come when they are ready, and I always thought that if you come out of there with a baby at then end of it all, job done. What plan?

But God had a birth plan in place thousands of years before. It involved the right time, the right people, the right place, and the right family. Because Jesus came from the family of David. He was the shoot from the stump of Jesse, and Jesse of course was the father of King David. God had ended the rule of his line, but promised that one day a saviour would come from that family.

We humans so often tend to only see the smaller picture. There are times, I am sure, when your life seems hopeless or tenuous, or when you are down and wondering what on earth God is doing, or what his plan is for your life. Does he even have one?

The answer is right here. In Joseph’s predicament. The answer is that God works all things for the good of those who love him.

Joseph was in a potentially bad situation, but because he loved rather than following the letter of the law, God used him in not only his birth plan, but his salvation plan. God never promised that we will never find ourselves in hard times, but he did promise to be at work in them.

God has a plan for you. It might not take thousands of years, but then again it might. Who knows what wonderful things your children’s children might do in God’s plan of salvation simply because you were faithful and taught them to love their Lord?

What is the big picture? We do not always see the fruition of God’s promises. Like David did not see the Messiah to come from his line. But we can believe that they will come true. Because he who promised is faithful.

God’s plan works in his time. In his time. He makes all things beautiful, in his time.


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