By Justin Rossow

We have to imagine that Joseph wanted children. He wanted someone to carry on the family business, someone to share his days, someone to delight him in his old age.

When Joseph made promises to Mary, when Mary made promises to Joseph, it was a natural part of the plan that children would follow. And sooner, rather than later.

But not this soon. Not like this. Not with the news of a pregnancy that had nothing to do with Joseph.

Beyond Expectations - JosephThrough his hurt, through his shame, in spite of his righteous anger and dashed dreams, Joseph opts for the compassionate answer, the kind of quiet divorce that would allow Mary to save at least some of her dignity. Perhaps it was Joseph’s gift to her unborn child.

But God wasn’t done with Joseph yet. Joseph had just picked up the pieces of his dashed expectations and put them back together again in a jig-saw puzzle without Mary, without family, without children to dandle on the knee, when the Angel of the Lord once again throws the whole picture back up in the air.

You almost have to feel sorry for Joseph: he is so obviously not in control of his own life.

But then again, who is? Haven’t you had your jig-saw puzzle thrown up into the air before, perhaps just when you thought you knew what was supposed to happen next? Haven’t you had your expectations turned upside down? Haven’t you felt your life is out of control?

Joseph did. And God worked in the midst of that chaos to bring the salvation of the world.

Christmas Eve worship is like the calm in the midst of the storm: a quiet moment of peace right in the middle of hectic, broken, painful lives. But the beauty of this night is not merely the peace it brings.

The beauty of Christmas is the promise that the same God who worked in the chaos of Joseph’s life is at work in the chaos of your life, too; the voice obeyed by waves and wind speaks into your life, too; the baby Joseph cradled in his arms takes your life in His strong hands and says, be at peace.

If you’ve ever held a newborn and stared into that wrinkly face, you know the joy and wonder Joseph felt when he held this unexpected baby and called Him son for the first time. And you’ve experienced just a taste of the joy and wonder your Heavenly Father feels when he holds you in His arms, and comforts your moments of fear, rejoices over you with singing, and calls you beloved daughter, beloved son.

The gift of Christmas is not what you expected; it is so very much more.


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Editor’s Note: This reflection was the third of five shared in worship at the 7:30 PM Christmas Eve worship service at St. Luke–Ann Arbor. Special thanks to new father Jason Hallman for presenting these words. 

The rest of the reflections can be found here:  ZechariahMaryThe ShepherdsJesus.