Matthew chapter 1 is mainly divided into two parts: first, the genealogy of Jesus (1:1-17); and second, the conception and birth of Jesus (1:18-25). The Matthean narrative is framed in a literary device called inclusio with the assurance of the imminence of God in the world. At the outset of the Gospel, the narrator states that Jesus is Immanuel (i.e., “God with us,” 1:23).

Similarly, at the close, Jesus states that: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (28:20). Jesus’/God’s imminence is the most important aspect that the world should cherish during the occasion of the Christmas and the New Year. Often Mary the mother of Jesus is given significance during the Christmas season. It is important to observe the characterization of Joseph, who is considered as the earthly father of Jesus (1:18-25). The following three things are significant to note concerning the character of Joseph.

First, Joseph was confused about the things happening around him (vv. 18-19). Though Mary was pledged to marry Joseph, she was pregnant even before they came together. Becoming pregnant without having association with the engaged man was punishable to stoning until death. As a righteous man and from the lineage of the Hebraic Fathers, Joseph was in a puzzlement between the oracles of the Law of Moses (Exo 20:2-17; Deut 5:6-21) and the events that were happening around him.

Though Joseph was not willing to expose Mary to public disgrace, he was attempting to divorce her quietly. He was bewildered: (1) as one who was not aware of Holy Spirit’s work in the womb of Mary, and he was unable to understand the divine mysteries behind her pregnancy; (2) as per the Law of Moses, Mary is punishable to death (Exo 20:2-17; Deut. 5:6-21), but Joseph was unable to figure out the things and expose her to the public; and (3) in an honour and shame context, he was perplexed between the public disgrace and his private life with her.

Second, the divine plans were confirmed for Joseph (vv. 20-21). While he was almost settled in his confusions, the angel of the Lord appears in a dream and gives him confirmation about the divine plans through his family. As Jesus was addressed, Joseph is also considered as “son of David” (vv. 1, 20). He gathers courage and takes Mary home.

Joseph was confirmed with the divine realities in the following ways: (1) the appearance of the angel brings him into greater clarification of many things; (2) the work of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb is attested by his testimony; and (3) Joseph, as a righteous man and a follower of the Mosaic commandments, realized the heavenly intervention in his family.

Third, Joseph’s commitment to fulfil the divine oracles (vv. 22-25). He realized that the things happen in his family are according to the prophetical oracles (v. 23). He commits himself to the work of the Lord: (1) he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him; (2) he took Mary home as his wife and protected her; (3) he led a sacrificial life without having a union with her until the birth of Jesus; and (4) he gave him the name Jesus as the angel commanded him (v. 21).

Thus, Joseph moved far away from all the confusions and came to a confirmation about the heavenly plans in his family. The confirmation he had through divine oracles led him to a greater commitment to the will and purpose of God. During this Christmas season, let us redeem ourselves from all sorts of confusions and come to a greater confirmation about the salvation we received through Jesus. Such a confirmation shall help us to commit ourselves to the task of God placed ahead of us.

Rev Dr Johnson Thomaskutty serves as the Associate Professor of New Testament at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.

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