One last look at a key player in the Nativity story and then I’ll move away from Christmas and into the new year. (What will I do when December, 2012, comes? Oh, that’s right, I don’t have to be afraid of that. 🙂
Joseph’s role was a difficult one and he had a tough decision to make. I’m sure he wanted to trust Mary, but whoever heard of being impregnated by a spirit being? Not logical, not possible! Yet the Word tells us that Joseph was “a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace.” (Matthew 1:19) He was simply going to “divorce her quietly.” Put the nightmare behind him, let her go, do the safe, yet loving thing for her.
But in a dream, an angel of the Lord appeared and interfered. “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.” (Matthew 1:20-21) People probably would’ve understood if he had chosen differently. He didn’t have Mary stoned, after all. Maybe they even ridiculed him for marrying a ‘non-virgin,’ or accused him of lying. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” (v. 24) Perhaps he was called righteous because he did the right thing, not what he wanted to do or what others expected him to do.
Fear can cause a person to ignore the dream, to go with the easy and comfortable choice, a choice that won’t raise eyebrows. The angel of God knew that following his command would require great courage from Joseph, who would have to step up to the plate as husband and earthly father.
When I think about what these verses can teach me, I notice that “do not be afraid” is followed by a command to act, to take Mary home as his wife. Unlike the other “fear not” passages, this one says, don’t be afraid to do this. In other words, just do it!
I struggled for over a year and a half with doing this blog, which means I avoided it, made excuses, forgot it, remembered, and then ignored it again, and again. Always it was a subtle, hazy dream that I refused to act on. In her recent comment, a friend reminded me of the book I read several years ago, “If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat” by John Ortberg. I’m beginning to understand that the fear doesn’t go away – you need to start walking through it.
Just before writing this, I printed out an article from Writers Digest.com entitled “10 Ways to Harness Fear and Fuel Your Writing.” (Imagine the timing on finding that!) There are many good quotes, but I’ll conclude with this one: “When you give your attention to following through on a goal, taking steps to improve your craft, researching places to submit, or reading that book on marketing, you are creating a forward motion that makes it harder for fear to hold you back.”
“Do not be afraid to……” write a blog, call a friend whom who haven’t heard from in a long time, do the right thing even if others may laugh or mock, follow the dream God gives you. Even Joseph, a humble carpenter, was used by God to build His kingdom.
“Do not be afraid to….” How is God telling you to fill in the blank?