He expected a Hotel. He settled for a barn.
He had dreamed of the perfect son. He settled for an illegitimate son.
He had expected an illegitimate son. He got the Son of God.
That pretty much sums up the story of Joseph as found in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke.
During this Advent season I have been reading the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke over and over. One morning I read Matthew, and the next I read Luke. It only takes about five minutes. I’m trying to become familiar not only with the details of the story, but also the tone, as it is told from two very different perspectives. By biblical standards, this is pretty easy reading, but the story is a bit more complicated than we usually recall, and it has been enlightening.
Here is my insight for today: the Christmas story tells us something about God that is incredibly counterintuitive. It tells us that God often comes to us out of broken promises, shattered dreams, bitter disappointments, and preposterously painful detours. No wonder we have trouble “getting” it! In our recollections of Christmas, both the biblical version and of Christmases past, it seems that God came to us out of a rarefied perfection of sorts, or at the least out of a perfectly romantic moment: a shining star, singing angels, Magical visitors bearing exquisite gifts. But when we actually read the story, it is a bit grittier than that. In fact, the characters in the original nativity are incredibly courageous and tenacious, confirming what I consider to be God’s predilection for tough followers as opposed to the fragile stereotype the world often thinks of.
Of course, the great mystery and beauty of the story is that both versions are accurate. The characters, fallible and tough and resilient, decide to play along with God. They agree to play their roles in this ridiculous story that they surely believe will end in tragedy, or at least low comedy. And yet, it does in fact end in perfection, or at least a perfectly romantic moment: God in the form of a baby, music in the air, Joseph the proud father of a son that is not his.
Rev. Don Underwood