What Do We Learn from Mary and Joseph?

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

 (Luke 1:26-38, NRSV)

In the sixth month (of Elizabeth’s pregnancy), the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High ….” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

 

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah Foretold

  (Matthew 1:18-24, NRSV)

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. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 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. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel”, which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

 

Mary Visits Elizabeth 

(Luke 1:39-45)

Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. … And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

 

Mary’s Song of Praise 

(Luke 1:46-56)

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” … And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

 

The Birth of Jesus 

(Luke 2:1-20)

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. … All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  … (After the angels appeared to the shepherds and the shepherds visited the newborn baby, the shepherds told the amazing story of their experience.) … And Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

 

Jesus Is Named  (

Luke 2:21)

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

 

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple

  (Luke 2:22-26)

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord … Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; …, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah

 

The Return to Nazareth 

(Luke 2:39-40)

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

v  Name as many examples as you can relevant to how you see obedience to God being a key part to both Joseph’s and Mary’s experience in this story.  Name as many ways as you can relevant to how you see obedience to God being a key part of your own life journey.

  • As a group, repeat Mary’s words after her encounter with the angel Gabriel – “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.” What would it take for you to respond in such a way to God in your own life?  Have you ever done so?
  • As a group, repeat Mary’s Magnificat from when Elizabeth first greets her – “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name “ What would it take for you to respond in such a way to God in your own life?  Have you ever done so?
  • Under the circumstances, Joseph being willing to continue with his engagement to Mary could have led to all kinds of problems for him. It was not “politically correct”.  Possibly not good for his reputation (or hers).  It was not the way couples normally did things in that day and time.  It may have been the obedient path, but it was certainly not the convenient path.  It’s easy to assume that these issues have nothing in common with our own life journeys, but is this really a valid assumption?  Are these issues a part of the Christian journey today?
  • What other themes do you see running through the Christmas story as we read it in the Bible? How are these issues and the issues of obedience, political correctness, reputation, and convenience a part of how you celebrate Christmas today?
  • As Mary reflected upon the activity of God in her midst, she “treasured all of it in her heart”. As you reflect on the activity of God in your midst this Advent season, what do you treasure in your heart?