Have you ever had a friend who always gave out too much information?
Matthew feels a bit like that for us this morning. He's giving away intimate details of a couple's life. And keep in mind, this is how Matthew is going to explain the birth of Jesus.
It's also, interestingly, one of the only times in Scripture Joesph takes center stage at all.
But, any of us in this position might understand how this all sounds a little unbelievable. Most folks who have a basic sense of reproduction might be a little non-plussed when their spouse is pregnant - which could be thought of as a type of revelation: the modern equivalent of a surprise pregnancy test coming back positive.
It's also reasonable to have divorced in that situtaion - after all, it would easily be percieved as adultery. And Mt really draws this point home that Joe is a good person, and so instead of making a public spectacle, decides to be quiet.
But he stops on of all things a dream from an angel.
And on top of that - Joseph is faithful to that dream, right down to refraining from intimacy with Mary until Jesus was born.
I wonder, in some corner of Heaven, Mt and Joe have had this out... like "bro, of all ways to tell the story, why'd you tell this one? You could have done like Luke."
I tried to imagine how Matthew would respond...
And here's what I've come to realize: really living faithfully in the already-but-not-yet is hard.
There's a lot of evidence to that... we hear it all the time: Xity is in decline.
I looked at some reasons why from supposed "experts" and it's the usual suspects
It's science's fault
It's media and the internet's fault
It's an okay thing to be an atheist now
One of my favorites: we're getting smarter?
Blame the millennials is another one
But I might offer another: it's hard.
Most of the NT was written with this anticipation that Jesus was right around the corner. Far as we can tell the latest book in the NT was at latest written in the mid-to-late second century, but likely end of the first. Either way, we're now in the 21st.
And many of us look around, and even regardless of our politics, wonder what's wrong, as I imagine people have been doing beyond history.
And, when given the option, with everything that's happening in our lives, to really have to commit to this whole outrageous story, well, we say no.
Which is why, I think, we could have far more sympathy for Joesph. He could have said no. This is all to fantastical, and the lamb must have gone bad, thanks but no thanks.
It would have freed him from all sorts of things.
He'd not needed to tow a family for the census
He'd not needed to flee to Egypt.
He'd avoid the fear of losing a son in the synagogue
He could have been a continued bachelor and lived a relatively unremarkable but peaceful existence.
But he didn't. He went on. He chose to go out on a limb, to care for his soon-to-be-and-then-spouse. He raised a son not entirely his.
And had he said no, he would have missed out on this. He would have missed out on a front row seat to Jesus, the savior, growing, becoming what he's called to be. He would have missed out on holding to his heart the hope of the world.
So I think Matthew would reply to Joesph, other than trying to make connections to the Jewish testament (WHICH, btw the way, doesn't mandate Mary's virginity in either canons... just that Mary is a young woman of marriage age), he might also have said "I told the story because I think people needed to know what it meant to see hope in the complexity of life... to say yes"
Everywhere is complication. That's the one thing I think is very clear as we head out of Advent. And once the good vibes and nostalgia wear out, it can be hard to see what hope there is contained in these stories.
And, when offered this community, and work of fostering it, it would be easy to say thanks but no thanks. I can do with what I have. And you probably can.
But what's gained in the miracles and hope in saying yes? Is the extra work worth holding embodied hope to your chest?
Yeah, life is complicated. Yeah, sometimes it's hard to make a decision to be part of something that doesn't entirely make sense, or has complexities, or asks something of you beyond what some reasoned logic would tell you is necessary.
But, ask someone whose been loved by a church. Who gave of themselves to care for someone else. To see the hope around complexity. Rare is it that, in the end, they say it wasn't worth it.
In the middle of the already but not yet, in the midst of moving from anticipation to marking the reality, spending a whole season witnessing the hope around us, I think we're left with that question - can we say yes?