The angel that comes to Joseph in a dream basically tells him not to worry about what everyone is going to think or say or do if he marries this woman who has become pregnant out of wedlock, Mary his betrothed.
And the angel explains why he should not be afraid.
But for a moment, before you think about the why, let’s think about all the reasons why Joseph should indeed worry about what other people will think or say or do.
Remember, this a first-century, middle eastern, small town.
How do you think Joseph and Mary would fare in a current day, traditional, middle eastern small town?
Not well now; not well back then.
Should he have been worried?
Worried and afraid about how this would impact his income.
Worried and afraid about what this would mean Mary’s baby and for other children who he and Mary might have.
Worried and afraid for about the loss of reputation in what social anthropologists call an honor/shame culture.
He should have been very worried and afraid.
I always find it curious, and I’m a bit incredulous, when I hear someone say, “I don’t care what people think?”
Really? Because what people think about you can be the difference between having a job or not and the difference between open and closed doors for opportunities.
And if you don’t care about yourself and your future, what about your family, if you have one? What people think about you impacts your kids in huge ways.
Sometimes I see that kind of a statement as posturing. I hear, ‘I actually care about what you think, but I think you will think more highly of me if you think I don’t care what you think about me.”
Actually, it’s a pretty good tactic and probably works most of the time.
And if it’s not posturing, then I usually think it’s just a dumb or selfish way to think.
But the angel tells Joseph not to worry about all those things—opportunity for him or for his family, employment and income, or shame and ridicule.
“BECAUSE what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
That changes everything for Joseph.
In this weekend’s sermon we’ll explore how it is that you should care what people think UNLESS you really believe that what was conceived in Mary was from the Holy Spirit.