Advent 4-animationThis Sunday’s gospel reading comes from Mt 1:18-25 found in Phase 1, Section 9 of the Harmony of the Gospels1. The story recorded by the Apostle Matthew, probably while he was in Antioch was written with special concern for those steeped in Hebrew tradition. Today, we believe it speaks loudest to those who are law-bound and legalistic – battling with their reasoning, their desire to do what’s right, and the reality of their own thoughts and actions. Today’s message is tells the story of Joseph in the throws of such a battle in which mercy and ascent to a higher purpose win and many prophesies fulfilled.2

Collect:
P
urify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Parsing the Collect, by Fr. Rob Eaton, Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Hemet, CA (Coming Soon)


Section 9 | Circumstances of Jesus’ Birth Explained to Joseph

Matthew 1:18-25
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ3 was like this: After his mother, Mary, was engaged to Joseph, before they came together, she was found pregnant4 by the Holy Spirit.5 19 Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, intended to put her away secretly. 20 But when he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take to yourself Mary, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She shall give birth to a son. You shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins.” 22 Now all this has happened, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall give birth to a son. They shall call his name Immanuel;” which is, being interpreted, “God with us.” 24 Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took his wife to himself;6 25 and didn’t know her sexually until she had given birth to her firstborn son. He named him Jesus.


RCL Readings: Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18; Matthew 1:18-25; Romans 1:1-7


Group Dialog:

  1. Look over the notes in Veracity and Virtue. What singular aspect of this story is most astounding to you?
  2. What did Joseph’s immediate obedience to the angel’s message in his dream indicate about his beliefs and his relationship with God?
  3. As the son of Mary Jesus was fully human. Read Heb 2:18; 4:15 and talk about how Jesus’ life, teaching and choices relate to your own struggles.
  4. In what ways was Jesus the opposite of Adam? Consider the significance of Jesus’ divine nature: being Eternal; his power over disease; command over nature; authority over sin and control over death – even His own.
  5. Consider God’s law, the laws of your State and this nation, and your family rules – Seventeen verses in the New Testament describe Jesus as the “son of David.” Why would this have been important to the Hebrew people to whom Mathew wrote?
  6. What are some everyday decisions or life changing decisions in which we need to relinquish control and obey God?
  7. Can you trust the Scriptures and God in areas that we do not fully understand, like the incarnation? If not how might your unbelief affect your perception of God’s ability in the ordinary things in which we wish he would come to our aid?
  8. What does the incarnation of Jesus – Immanuel, (God coming to dwell with us) tell us about the  extent of God’s intent and desire for our reconciliation and redemption?
  9. Read the Gospel once more and also the other readings, then discuss what are the keys to having a “stable faith“?

Prayers of the People:

  • Lives of the ChurchSet us free, Lord, from the confinements of our own reasoning. Let us expand our understanding with the wisdom that comes by faith and trust fully in your very nature, Word, and purpose for us. 
  • LocalLord, embolden us to leave the comfort of our own creation and activities, to go with confidence in the power of your Spirit at work within us in and beyond our neighborhood, to be the light of Christ, to do good works, and share the Good News in the ministry of reconciliation.
  • GlobalOh God, your power and thoughts are so much greater than our own – vast and incomprehensible! Lift our eyes, our soul letting us see the greater plan, knit our souls desires to your very own, and help us embrace and empower every good work that you are doing to reach and reconcile the world to you in this very moment.

Notes:

  1. See the notes and listen to our podcast in our 3.5 year study through the Harmony of the Gospels.
  2. Download this resource, Prophesies fulfilled by Jesus and consider the statistical possibilities of the fulfillment 456 prophecies. See: Mathematical Probability that Jesus is the Christ and Applying the Science of Probability to the Scriptures.
  3. Its important to follow Matthew’s proclamation – Jesus was born To a virgin mother in that physically Mary conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit and not of any man; He had an adoptive father as Jesus is legally Joseph’s son; and ultimately, Jesus is God’s Son – God incarnate.
  4. The incarnation of Jesus is the most extraordinary miracle in all the Bible. (See: Jesus the Healer and His Miracles).  His human nature and divine nature are unique and intricately woven into his being, power and purpose. He was born a baby and yet he sustains the universe. Though he aged as a man, he exists eternally. Though he endured temptation, he is omnipotent. Though he died, he himself rose and conquering death. Though he could have stayed He returned to heaven so as to be our advocate and High priest.
  5. In Genesis, the Spirit brings life to men and in Matthew, the Spirit gives life to the Messiah.
  6. According to the laws in that time, Joseph was more than a legal guardian of Jesus. In choosing to take Mary as his wife, he also claimed Jesus as his son – and thus Jesus came into the line of David as prophesied.