I was pondering the passage I preached yesterday. It was Matthew 1 – the genealogy and Joseph’s dream. I engaged with the text, tried to preach it with it’s own emphasis, and emphasised the relevance to us today. A couple of comments afterwards referred to the new or different angle or take on the story.
So why was it new? I don’t think it was. I think I preached the text according to the prompts in the text. I don’t in any way think my message was somehow better than others, but I have pondered what might be expected from the preaching of that passage that I didn’t do, or vice versa. Perhaps one of the following explanations clarifies what was supposedly new or different?
1. Recognition of the experience of a character. In this case it was Joseph, his shattered world at the discovery of Mary’s pregnancy. I suppose we tend to skip over that to get to the angel in the dream. I suppose it is easy to subconciously assume that Joseph viewed the first Christmas the same way we do as we look at manger scenes and Christmas cards. He didn’t have that. He did have a totally broken world, at least temporarily.
2. Recognition of what is not in the text. Once the angel came in the dream and answered the “how did she get pregnant” question, there is still a lot that is unstated. We tend to see what is there and presume it is the complete solution to the challenging situation. But what about the “how is this going to work out” kind of questions? Joseph was taking his bride home during their betrothal with her already pregnant. He knew how, but what would everyone else think and say and do? This might define their lives in so many ways. Joseph didn’t have every question answered, but he obviously had enough – in who this Jesus was (God’s saviour of people from sins) and in this Jesus, Immanuel (God with us in the midst of life’s unanswered questions).
3. Emphasis on the relevance of the familiar. I suppose we tend to go through the Christmas narratives and simply celebrate Jesus. But as with many narratives, it is the character’s interaction with and response to God that offers such relevance to us. Maybe we’re not used to stepping into Joseph’s sandals, but maybe we should try it – he’s a bit of unsung hero. What did he know? Jesus. Immanuel. He moved forward because somehow that was enough. What do we know? What don’t we know? Perhaps the relevance of the Bible is sometimes missed because of the more obvious elements?
Tomorrow I will share another thought on this passage, particularly in reference to how we preach the text.