When it comes to telling the Christmas story, Joseph often seems to be standing on the sidelines while Mary, the baby Jesus, the shepherds and even the angels receive most of the attention in pageants and carols. Even the account of Christ's birth from Joseph's perspective as found in the Gospel of Matthew gets little airtime on Christmas Eve. Why? Perhaps because it's so very ordinary. In Matthew's account there's no real dramatic or spectacular moment--no starry skies filled with angels singing praises to God while open-mouthed shepherds in the fields look up in fear and amazement. Rather, in a very matter-of-fact way, Matthew tells a story of ordinary people facing decisions involving their religious traditions and laws, their relationship and their community.
This is the power and beauty of Emmanuel, "God with us." The birth of Jesus, our Emmanuel, means God's full and complete immersion into human life. God meets us in the ordinary places and situations of life, even in its complicated and sometimes messy details. Everyday human existence has now become the arena for God's ongoing presence and activity. In what ordinary acts and places will God's presence be made known among us this day?
Matthew 1:18-23 (NRSV)
18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.
20 But just when he had resolved to do 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 as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."