Daily Update #237

St. John’s SouthbourneDaily Reflection by David Poulter

Pause:  “I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.  I will declare that your love stands firm for ever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.”
                                                                                                Psalm 89 : 1 – 2
Readings:  2 Samuel 4 : 7 – 16; Psalm 89 : 27 – 36; Matthew 1 : 18 – 21
“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.”
This may seem to be an unusual reading for the middle of Lent.  Normally we read the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel during Advent, together with the Old Testament prophecies, as part of our preparation for Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus.  In Lent we are looking towards the events leading up to Holy Week and the crucifixion, and then on to Easter Sunday, when we celebrate with great joy the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus.  So how are these verses from this Gospel relevant to the middle of Lent?  As I prayed about this, two thoughts came to mind.
Firstly, In Joseph’s dream the angel of the Lord tells him that this pregnancy is no ordinary one.  As I mentioned earlier, it is usually in the weeks before Christmas when we hear again the Old Testament promises that God would send a Saviour, and that he would be born of a virgin.  Here, in his dream, the angel reveals to Joseph these promises are now coming true, that Mary has indeed conceived through the Holy Spirit, and that he should take her into his home as his wife.  Of course, this sets Jesus apart from every one of us.  We know that God is our Creator, but human conception comes about through a male and a female.  This assurance would no doubt have encouraged both Mary and Joseph through their years with their first-born son, and certainly was something that Mary could perhaps draw strength from when those dreadful events of Holy Week and Good Friday took place.
Secondly, the angel gave Joseph that amazing promise that this son of theirs would be the long-awaited Saviour, the one who would save his people from their sins. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, before the resurrection of Jesus the priests had to offer an annual sacrifice for the sins of the people, and this had to be repeated every year.  Jesus, through his sinless life, his death on the cross, and his resurrection, offers everyone, not just the Jews, complete forgiveness.  When we fail God, when we fall short of his standards, we can ask for his forgiveness knowing that in Jesus we have a perfect Saviour.
These truths hold true not just for Advent or Lent, but for every part of every year.  We have a loving heavenly Father, who willingly gave his beloved Son to live an earthly life, and ultimately to pay the price for the sins of every one of us.  We have a loving Saviour, Jesus Christ, who, as it says in Hebrews 12 v 2, “for the joy that was set before him…endured the cross…”, in order to bring us into the heavenly family.  And we have a loving Holy Spirit, the one who is with us and who is in us, to teach us and strengthen us in our walk of faith.
Lord, open our eyes to your presence, open our ears to your call, open our hearts to your love, that we may give ourselves to you and walk before you as children of light, through him who is the Light of the World, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.