Grace, Mercy and Sacrifice in the Christmas Story

Matthew is one of the most fascinating individuals in the Bible. He was a publican who collected taxes from his own people on behalf of an occupying empire. The people saw him as a traitor. The Pharisees believed that he couldn’t go to Heaven. He was a social outcast, and his only friends were the other marginalized individuals of his day: prostitutes, sinners, disabled, and other publicans.

Matthew knew what the religious folks thought about him, and he was well acquainted with their hatred of him. When he held a dinner for Christ, Jesus was criticized for dining at his house.

Yet, Jesus called Matthew to be His disciple, and He called him while he was in the act of collecting taxes. What’s fascinating about Matthew is his rise from social outcast and wretched sinner to being one of the men closest to Jesus. Furthermore, he becomes one of the four authors who wrote an account of the Gospel.

Matthew was a tax collector. He was a financial guy with an eye for detail, and who knew how to find authorization for anything. Thus, as Matthew gives his account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he is careful to point out how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament.

He gets right down to business in chapter 1, as he shows the genealogy of Christ, then records how His birth fulfilled scripture.

Enter Joseph.

No matter how you analyze his reaction to the news that Mary was expecting, he conducts himself with grace, mercy and faith. He was a very faithful man.

Tradition teaches that Joseph believed Mary to have been unfaithful… a rumor dispelled by the appearance of the angel of the Lord. Joseph, being a loving and forgiving man, was willing to give Mary a private divorce and spare her the shame and punishment for her alleged transgression. That is, until the Angel intervened, and Joseph learned the truth and stepped into his role as step-dad to the divine Son of God.

Had that been the case, then Joseph acted with Grace and Mercy. He was gracious in that he showed undeserved favor to Mary, in being concerned for her well-being. He showed mercy by considering a private divorce as opposed to a public stoning. All of these are Christlike attributes.

Despite our sin and rebellion against God, and our betrayal against Christ, the Lord gave His life on the cross to redeem us from sin. He showed grace and mercy in giving us time to learn the truth, to come to faith, and to repent and believe.

We should not only learn about God’s love for us, and realize the grace and mercy He bestowed upon us, but we should extend Grace and Mercy to each other.

However, suppose Joseph knew the truth. Suppose he knew exactly Who the child Mary was carrying was. Suppose he, believing that the virgin would conceive and bring forth a son, decided that he would not defile the virgin. To honor God, he would quietly break-off the engagement so that Mary could live the purpose God had for her.

In doing so, Joseph was giving up what was most precious to him, his beloved wife. That’s sacrifice, which is also a Christlike trait.

Jesus sacrificed the glories of heaven, comfort and adoration in order to live among sinful men, and give His life on the cross to redeem the very people who were mocking Him. He gave up what was precious to Him for our well-being.

From this, we learn how valuable we are to Christ, and we learn that, like Christ, we should not approach life with a “what’s in it for me” attitude, but rather, “how can I help?”

And finally, as we see the angel of the Lord give assurance to Joseph, we see Joseph respond in faith. Joseph’s faith was marked by his obedience to God’s will.

Obedience is an act of faith. Is your faith revealed in your obedience, life choices, and priorities?

There is a lot to learn from Joseph’s reaction to the news of the birth of Christ. May we all turn our hearts to the Lord so that He can transform us, so that our actions reveal the faith He was cultivated within us. God bless you, and Merry Christmas!

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