Joseph, a righteousA righteous person is one who is ethical and faithful to God's covenant. Righteousness in the Old Testament is an attitude of God; in the New Testament it is a gift of God through grace. In the New Testament righteousness is a relationship with God... More son of DavidSecond king of Israel, David united the northern and southern kingdoms. More, in obedience to the command of an angel, the prophetic promise of scripture, and events that are “from the HolyHoly is a term that originally meant set apart for the worship or service of God. While the term may refer to people, objects, time, or places, holiness in Judaism and Christianity primarily denotes the realm of the divine More Spirit” (1:18, 20), recognizes this miraculous conception, takes Mary as his wife, and adopts the child as his own by naming him JesusJesus is the Messiah whose life, death, and resurrection are God's saving act for humanity More according to angelic instruction.
However brief, Matthew’s narrative captures the promise and the mysteryA mystery is something secret, hidden and not perceived by ordinary means. In the book of Daniel a significant mystery is revealed through divine revelation (Daniel 2); Paul speaks of a mystery of God in Romans 11 and again in Ephesians 3. In speaking of... More of God’s action in Jesus and at the same time introduces important and distinctive Matthean themes. The word genesis (“birth,” 1:18) places the whole event within the creative activity of God from the beginning. God is here doing a new and yet an old thing. The explicit reference to fulfillment of prophecyProphecy is the gift, inspired by God, of speaking and interpreting the divine will. Prophets such as Amos, Isaiah, and Ezekiel spoke words of judgment and comfort to the people of Israel on behalf of God. More for both the conception and the name “Emmanuel” (“God is with us”; 1:23) clearly marks this event as the intentional action of God. The fact that this theme brackets Matthew’s story in Jesus’ “I am” promise to be “with you always” (28:20) confirms its importance. MatthewA tax collector who became one of Jesus' 12 disciples More takes pains to explain that the name of Jesus also is significant, as the sign that he will be the agent of God’s salvationSalvation can mean saved from something (deliverance) or for something (redemption). Paul preached that salvation comes through the death of Christ on the cross which redeemed sinners from death and for a grace-filled life. More, and that this salvation will have to do with the forgiveness of sins (1:21).
The naming of Mary and Joseph and the refusal to sidestep the issue of an uncomfortable pregnancy outside of wedlock remind the reader that it is precisely in the common events of family and relationships that God’s salvation takes place. Often overlooked in Christmas celebrations is the fact that it is Joseph, not Mary, who holds center stage. That the singular word “righteous” is used to describe Joseph introduces one of the most important Matthean themes for the first time. Provocative then is that we see in this righteous Joseph one who risks disobedience to the tradition and the law for the sake of obedience to the command and promise of God, given through the angel in a dream. Joseph’s obedience is underscored by the verbal symmetry of the command of the angel and the response of Joseph.