Focal Passages: Matthew 1:18-20, 24-25;
Luke 1:28-31, 34-38
Ethel Waters was born in the worst of circumstances. Her teenage mother was raped at knifepoint by a man named James Waters, resulting in her birth. She was raised mostly by her grandmother; however, there was no solid foundation in her life. According to her, “no one raised her. She was neither coddled nor loved; she ran wild.” Life was difficult for Waters, but she found solace and purpose through using the gift God had given her, the gift of music. Later in life she would make famous the song “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” as she sung this and other gospel songs while touring with Billy Graham. Although she was presented with so many unexpected challenges, she chose faith over fear and found that God was sufficient.
The texts for today’s lesson describe the difficult decisions before Joseph and Mary when they discovered that Mary was pregnant. Matthew records the story from Joseph’s perspective. Joseph was a good, just and morally solid man. He and Mary were working through the process of marriage, called “betrothal,” when he learned of Mary’s unexpected pregnancy. He knew he was not the father, and although shamed, he wanted to protect himself and Mary from further embarrassment. His plan was to file for a private divorce.
Mary’s perspective is recorded by Luke. She was a virgin. Undoubtedly she was excited about her marriage, and was horrified to discover she was pregnant. What would she do? Who could she tell? Where did this baby inside her come from? The answers to Mary and Joseph’s questions were provided by God’s angel, Gabriel. The pregnancy came from God Himself, the Holy Spirit. The baby to be born was to be named Jesus. And Joseph was to fulfill his marital obligation to Mary, even if the child was not biologically his own.
It’s been said that faith is the opposite of fear. They cannot co-exist. Like Waters, like Joseph and Mary, we must choose.