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Have a Little Faith, Joseph!
Matthew 1:18-25
by Rev. Frank Schaefer

You know, humanly speaking things werenít really going well leading up to that first Christmas Eve. In fact, the entire Christmas story is one of human dilemma. The harsh rule of the Romans. The census which forced Mary and Joseph to go on a long arduous journey. It is a story of human oppression, poverty and hardship. But it is also a story of simple faith that yields big results. God never really asks the characters in the bible to muster up big faith--he always asks for a little faith a little trust, and he takes this little deposit and turns it into huge profits.

Circumstances couldnít have been much worse for Mary and Joseph, not being able to find medical care for the delivery of Maryís baby, nor could they find shelter, nor were they married when Jesus was born. There was not much positive to be expected for Mary, Joseph, nor the baby. No future, no career, nothing. And all of this was happening amidst a great political crisis in which an unwanted census was forced upon the Jewish people by the then super-power Rome.

Letís talk about Joseph for a while. In todayís passage we read that he finds out about Mary's condition and naturally, since he is not the father of the unborn child, he assumes the worst. Joseph--like any other young man--had dreams and goals in life. His parents had arranged his marriage, still, he dreamed of the life he would build with his wife. He would work hard to support his family. They would raise children - a blessing upon their home. They would go to temple and they would have a good life, a holy life. They would follow the Torah. He would bring honor upon his familyís name, the house of David.

And his fiancťe was Mary, a wonderful young woman. She would make a good wife. His heart was full of love, joy and anticipation. So he rose early each day, worked hard at his craft, determined to live into his future.
Then the bottom fell out. Mary was pregnant. What on earth? How...? ... Well, that was that. He couldn't marry her now. How could she get involved with someone else? She said she loved him. Can you imagine the pain, the feeling of betrayal, the anger? Perhaps, he fell into a depression. His dreams of a happy life with wife and family dashed. Still, he planned to dismiss her quietly. To spare her public disgrace. After all, he really loved her, no matter how much she hurt him.

But then he had a dream. In the dream he was visited by angels, and told things were not as they appeared. Mary was undefiled. But he was to have a new dream: To father the child of another, the son of the most high God. And he was to do all in his power to raise and protect this infant Jesus, for God was going to be with them.

What was Joseph thinking after he woke? Was this a wishful dream his desperate mind concocted? Could something like this be true? Could Mary have really conceived a child from God himself?

Joseph had to make up his own mind what to believe--can he keep his faith in circumstances like this. And so it is that the very first narrative in the New Testament is the story of a man trying to decide the same thing everybody has to decide who hears the Gospel: is Jesus the Son of God or not?

Letís just assume for a moment that Joseph had not believed that the father of the child was of God. He would have to assume that the child was from another man. What would have happened to Mary had Joseph not had faith in the son of God? How would an unwed mother have fared in first-century Galilee? Would her parents have thrown her out? Could Mary and Jesus have wound up as street beggars? Speaking in human terms, God's wondrous Son comes to us as an illegitimate child. Think about it.

But Joseph invested a little faith and trust. He simply believed that Jesus was God's son. And that little faith had huge results. It made a difference in Jesus life and subsequently in the life of all of us who follow Jesus.
God never asks us to have supernatural faith. Jesus said: "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed you can move mountains. Have you seen a mustard seed before? I have. It is the smallest of seeds. So small you can hardly see it. And yet, the mustard seed will grow into a humongous tree.

And in the midst of our destitute state, our humanity, our sin, and our confusion, God asks us to believe just as he asked Joseph. God asks us not to despair, not to give up, but to be people of faith, faith in the future even when the world around us is falling apart. God is not asking us to believe the impossible; he asks us to believe that Jesus is God. That's all we need. Because, if we really truly believe that Jesus is God with us, then we can rest assured that God will take care of us; as God took care of Joseph and Mary. Let's take that little mustard seed of faith we have and let us invest it for big results. Amen.