Welcome to A Scarlet Cord of Hope, the 2021 advent series of University Fellowship Church Women written and read by Jaime Sherman, who penned our Christmastime narratives from biblical, Jewish, and historical sources to tell how God wove hope from creation to the creche and who continues to point us to the final fulfillment of hope in the one-day-soon second coming of Jesus Christ. Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
today’s suggested reading
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Mary returned to Nazareth, and in time, it became known that she was with child. While she knew her conception was through the Holy Spirit, the people around her assumed she had been unfaithful to Joseph, the one who was bound to her legally but not yet physically. Joseph, a carpenter by trade, had spent hours excitedly preparing their home for their long-awaited union. And then this. This news that Mary was pregnant — and he knew he was not the father.
The village chatter was of stoning. All wondered if Joseph would accuse Mary and then, in angry betrayal in accordance with the law, stone his bride to death. Only his accusations could bring this terrible death sentence, but this one, pledged to be her husband for the rest of their days, was a righteous man. Not wanting to end her life or disgrace her publicly, he planned to send her away secretly with a certificate of divorce. As long as he remained silent, her life — and the life of the child inside her — were spared.
But the Lord halted Joseph’s plan to send her away. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream — the first of four dreams of grace to guide Joseph’s heart and feet.
“Joseph, son of David,” the angel spoke. “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife; for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-22).
Awaking from his dream, Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had commanded. He courageously took Mary to be his wife, but he protected her virginity until she would give birth to this baby they would together name Jesus. God with us. The Hope of Israel.
After pledging forever with this young maiden, who shared a similar encounter with an angel of the Lord, Joseph was faced with Caesar Augustus’ directive to travel to the town of his lineage to be counted — along with all who belonged to him — in the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Taking Mary, who was with child, Joseph left Nazareth in Galilee and all the whispered gossip that colored their days. Together they traveled some 80 miles over many long days to a sleepy little village outside Jerusalem called Bethlehem, or House of Bread, for Joseph was of the house and lineage of King David.
Bethlehem, which was situated seven miles south of Jerusalem, was surrounded by fields of crops and sheep, many being cared for until they could be offered as temple sacrifices. It was here in this lowly town that Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born (5:2-5a).
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.
The Lord used at least three other dreams in Joseph’s life to provide a roadmap to escape from the tyrant king Herod and seek a sort of exile in Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15), to return to Israel (Matthew 2:19-21), and then to settle again in Nazareth (Matthew 2:22-23). Through the limited biblical references concerning Joseph, we conclude much about this man of God. He was sensitive to the voice of God, courageous because he was empowered by God, just, kind, honorable, and obedient. He was willing — at great cost to his reputation and future — to be used by God to protect and to guide the early days of the Messiah.
Are you willing, like Joseph, to accept God’s call upon your life and be used for His glory even if the cost is great? We all need the “Do Not Fear!” reminders in life — the ones so many of our men and women in our advent journey have received that pointed them to the source of their courage — the Lord God. We are living in dark days of confusion and hurt, desperately in need of fresh reminders to put our trust in God to lead us. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope as we approach a new year full of numerous question marks and fears (Romans 15:13). May you continually call to mind God’s faithfulness, and therefore have hope. For the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is His faithfulness. “The LORD is our portion,” our souls declare, “therefore we will hope in Him” (Lamentations 3:21-24).
Jaime Sherman is a writer and editor for ufcwomen.blog but most importantly a child of the King of kings, the wife of one amazing man for nearly 20 years, and mama of five girls and one boy. Learn more about her adventure in writing and enjoy some free resources on our main page for this series.