WEEK TWO: CHRISTMAS AND FAMILY
Bible Reflection: Joseph and the Blended Family
There’s a song in the charts at the moment by Alicia Keys called Blended Family. Here are some of the lyrics.
Hey I might not really be your mother
That don’t mean that I don’t really love ya
And even though I married your father
That’s not the only reason I’m here for ya
I think you’re beautiful
I think you’re perfect
I know how hard it gets
But I swear it’s worth it, worth it
That’s what you do, what you do, what you do
What you do for love
‘Cause there ain’t nothing, there ain’t nothing
There ain’t nothing I won’t do for us
It may not be easy
This blended family, but baby
That’s what you do, what you do, what you do
What you do for love.
The fact is that most of us have had first-hand experience of being part of – or seeing someone you know – living in a blended family. This can be for many reasons – separation, death, divorce, adoption, fostering, remarriage. And I’m sure you have seen the pain and the struggle of children getting used to having a new step parent, having to live in two homes, the dealings with siblings, the ex wife/husband/partner… But also the joy of seeing how far you can come and the realisation that things might not be perfect but there is still love, fun, adventure and safety.
“What has this got to do with the Christmas story, Sarah?” You ask! Well, Jesus was part of a blended family. Think about it..His real father was God and he was brought up by a man who wasn’t his biological father – Joseph.
I want to encourage you today that God is not phased by your family situation. In fact, we see a God who reaches out, whose purpose in sending Jesus was to come and be amongst us. To feel what we feel, touch, taste, see and experience: the highs and the lows of life. He is a God who empathises with us, is compassionate in our weaknesses and failures. And our Jesus was tempted in every way, yet was without sin and became the perfect sacrifice to save us from our sins.
The bible is full of families with problems. Just read about Abraham and Sarah; Jacob and his 12 sons… you’ll be shocked because it’s worse at times than the Jeremy Kyle show! These stories warn us about what not to do and here in the Christmas story Joseph shows us what we are to do if we find ourselves in these situations.
Can you imagine Mary’s dilemma in going to her fiance Joseph and telling him she was pregnant with Gods son? There may well have been some choice words, raised eyebrows or stunned silences in disbelief. I can imagine him hearing what Mary said and leaving her with a request for space and time to think. Whatever happened in this conversation the Scriptures tell us that Joseph considered these things..he was faithful to the law yet came to the conclusion that he would divorce her quietly.
With Mary alone, wondering what would become of her and how she would protect her unborn son, we read in Matthew 1:20-21 what happened next.
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.”
Two things I want to draw out here:
- Don’t be afraid. Putting myself in Joseph’s position, I would be afraid. He would have been excited about getting married, full of dreams and hopes for his future with his new bride. But the plan changed slightly! Now he was taking on a son that wasn’t his own, along with Mary they would have to deal with the outside pressure of everyone’s thoughts and opinions. The stigma, the judgements. How would this work with our future children? He would ask. Will I love this child as though he was my own? Will we bond? I’m not ready to be a dad. You might be in these struggles now or have been. But how cool is it that God, who came as human with a human mother, was not born into royalty, was not born into luxury or a perfect family but was born right in the middle of confusion, struggle, poverty, simplicity. He became a refugee..what kind of God is this?
- Family is God’s plan. I think God would say to all of us, whatever our family situation, “Don’t be afraid, I am with you, and I know the way”. I think many of us can carry the burden of our families, focus on our failures and embrace shame when this is not Gods heart. Remember God created a perfect planet, a beautiful home, he put his first kids in it. They had everything they could ever want and they rebelled. God knows first-hand the pain of families but he created us anyway because he, too, understands the great joys of parenthood. God’s plan has always been family. Our liberal, humanist society diminishes the family and society is broken. Society only works when we have strong families. So, however messy yours may be at the moment, allow God to make it strong. Please take your shame to God and let go of it. Bring him your fears and know that he sees and understands your situation. Learn to embrace the journey and imperfection of family life.
Joseph embraced the privilege and responsibility to bring up a child that wasn’t his own as if he was his own.
A single mum friend of mine once said to me,
“Sarah, I don’t think I’m going to find anyone again. What man wants to take on a child who isn’t his own?”
“Joseph did,” I replied. This encouraged her and gave her hope.
If we read the story we see that in the early years of Jesus’ life, Joseph is pivotal for Mary and Jesus’ safety and direction. He saw Gods provision and hand on his family. He is the one who God speaks to about where to go, live and even escape to. He brought Jesus up in the Jewish customs and traditions, he took Jesus to church. Jesus sat with him and listened to the scriptures being read. The community knew that Jesus was Joseph son.
I’m sure Joseph, as the years went on, looked at himself and wondered, “What can I offer to God, how can I teach him anything?” But I believe Joseph faced his insecurities and got on with it, taught Jesus his trade of carpentry and his example. His fathering enabled Jesus to later relate to God beautifully as his true father.
Whatever your family situation today, would we see afresh something of God’s heart for family? However hard it is at times, would we come to him with our fears and shame? Through Jesus, we can get to know Father God deeper so that we can parent better. Would we see his grace and receive his grace to do what he asks us to do?
Sarah Jones is an Elim Pentecostal minister who is married to Peter. They live in a little seaside town in the northwest called Cleveleys. She is a passionate communicator who loves to bring God’s truth in a relevant and inspiring way.