Come to the Manger: Issues of Character

Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 “And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 24 And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, 25 and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

Though this section of scripture is brief, it speaks volumes about Joseph. This common man could have very easily missed Jesus at Christmas…the Holy One’s birth did not depend upon him at all. Certain things are revealed about Joseph, however, that make it clear why he ends up coming to the manger on that very first Christmas.

  • He was man of great character (verse 19). Neither anger nor selfish revenge moved Joseph at all. Though his shock concerning Mary’s condition must have been great, his disappointment acute, and his disillusionment significant, he treats Mary with dignity.
  • He was ready to receive a word from the Lord (verse 20). We may think now that God speaking through dreams was common, but not really. Here are the facts: Joseph was ready to hear a radical word from God…and then take action to embrace it.
  • He practiced complete obedience (verse24). Joseph didn’t hesitate one moment. The morning after his divine dream, Joseph took the necessary steps to take Mary to be his wife. Yes…this crazy message that could easily be dismissed was embraced by a true faith-filled follower.
  • He was a man of integrity (verse 25). He kept her a virgin until she gave birth to Jesus in order that the scriptures would be fulfilled, “A virgin will give birth…” In the most private arena of life, Joseph honored God.

As I consider Joseph, I am gripped by His character. This, of course, is not something that is developed in a day, month, or year. It is a life-time quest of seeking God in all things at all times. Joseph was ready to listen, learn, adapt, obey, and sacrifice in order to come to the manger that first Christmas.

Are only those like Joseph invited to come? No—not at all! The wonderful message of Christmas is that this child born in a barn beckons everyone to come. But here’s the truth of the matter: Most people miss Jesus because they are not prepared to come. They fail to hear God’s invitation, are unwilling to change, are stuck in their own plans for their lives, or are unwilling to do whatever it takes to come. If we miss the directives of God, we may miss Jesus. If we are unteachable, thinking we know pretty much everything we need to know, we have precluded our opportunity to come. If we are unwilling to sacrifice or make radical changes to come to Jesus, we will never get there. If we want to live life our way rather than God’s way, we will never travel that journey to the manger.

What an amazing example Joseph is for all of us. Because he was a man of character, he found himself hovering over the innocent and glorious face of Immanuel. If Joseph would visit us today, He would tell us that every sacrifice was worth the experience of gazing into the face of God.

ACTION: What character flaw may keep you from making your journey to the manger this Christmas? Be honest…  Right now, write down a commitment you want to make to God about this weakness in your character.