Friday 19th July
Matthew 1:18-21 - Take her as your wife

'This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, '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.''

Just another young couple; just another pair of lives caught up in the throes of love and marriage; just another pregnancy creating one more inhabitant of a forgotten village somewhere in a far-flung corner of the Roman Empire. That is how many would see this situation, and the only attention it attracted was for reasons that few would attribute to the purposes of God.

They surrounded this impending birth with stories; stories of dreams and of angels; stories of God's promise fulfilled and Messiah's coming. Stories that many would find easy to dismiss as nothing more than a set of far-fetched excuses to explain away the embarrassing truth of a child conceived outside of marriage, in a society that considered such things as a "public disgrace".

Though convention offered him the option of a quiet divorce, and many would commend this as a way of remaining true to God's intent, Joseph chose to make the child his own, and take Mary to be his wife. Some might call him gullible, or so struck by love, that he simply couldn't believe what we might be tempted to describe as a more obvious reality.

But this is no mere moment of domestic resolution or reckless act of undying love. For in this most human of situations, God's purpose was sealed. Though easily dismissed as just another awkward corner in that course of love which seldom runs smooth, this was a truly prophetic act; a sign of their belief in the purposes of God. Though few would see or understand, their remaining together was a declaration for that time, and every time to come, of the hope and promise that is embodied in our Messiah.

The Son of God would be the son of the carpenter; God's salvation would find its way to earth as a "public disgrace"; an otherwise forgotten family would become the most celebrated family on earth. Today we too may find ourselves surrounded by the ordinary; circumstances and events that could easily be branded as disgrace. We will see lives unnoticed; messy live; lives and actions that defy convention and expectation.

And in it all, God's presence may be clear and obvious, or we might struggle to see where God can be at all. But whether or not we manage to recognise it, God's purpose is never contained by our expectations; God is not absent when God is un-noticed.

Emmanuel God, help us to see every circumstance as the chance to discover afresh that you are always with us. AMEN

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