When the angel appears to Joseph in a dream, the angel calls him by his name, “Joseph,” and also, “son of David.” The “son of David” portion of this naming reminds us – maybe Joseph, too - that Joseph is of the house of King David, of royal lineage. Joseph is a famous heritage lineage of the King David. David, who was the youngest of eight sons of a sheep farmer, Jesse. David, who was summoned from the fields one day by the prophet Samuel that he might be anointed and made king. David, the littlest and not strongest of the brothers. David, who as a boy would slay Goliath, that great giant of a warrior, with a single pebble from his sling, and then go on to grow into one of the most famous kings of Israel and of all time.
Joseph is descended from this David. Furthermore, the prophets had foretold that the Messiah, the Savior promised of old, would come of the house of David and – cue our first reading from Isaiah – be named “Emmanuel,” “God with us.”
And, as the angel tells Joseph, Joseph and Mary are to name this child Jesus, which means “the One Who Saves.” And so, the most important part of Joseph’s identity is revealed: for it is in Joseph’s time, within Joseph’s own house that the prophecy will come true. A child will be born of the house of David, and this will be the Messiah, “Emmanuel,” God with us. “Jesus,” the “One Who Saves.”
But thank goodness for that angel being sent to Joseph in the dream! For otherwise, we hear, that Joseph would have quietly set aside his betrothed, Mary. Mary, who also is visited by an angel to be told that her identity will be as “Theotokus,” “God-bearer.” And can you imagine how difficult that identity would be to carry for Mary, all alone and as a teenage, unwed mother? Yet God did not intend Mary to carry this blessed burden alone, but to have the support of Joseph so that together they might come to be known as Jesus’ parents, the ones who faithfully responded to God’s call and bore the Messiah for the world.
And so, on this last Sunday of Advent, this last Sunday of preparation ahead of Christmas, this Sunday when all of the four candles are lit on the Advent wreath but not the Christ candle in the middle – for we are still waiting for the Christ child, the Messiah’s arrival; on this last Sunday of Advent, we hear of how identity matters and names matter – Joseph of the house of David. Royal lineage perhaps, and sheep farmer lineage to be sure, but most importantly, the lineage into which God will choose to arrive as Savior and Messiah. David’s whole focus, the angel tells him, needs to be on supporting this work of God. This arrival to the world of Jesus, “the one who saves.” This, David, is your work. Even as Mary is “God-bearer,” Joseph is God-accompanier.
This is our identity, too, to be God-bearers and God-accompaniers. As people and as a church community. To seek with God’s help and by Jesus’ soon to be newborn and yet eternal and resurrecting power to bring the good news story of God to the world.
The world of today needs the good news story of “God with Us” and the “One Who Saves” just as much as the world in the time in which Jesus was first born. And the world today needs church communities who understand our identity as God-bearers and God-accompaniers perhaps more than it ever has before. For the brokenness and sin of the world seeks to break down all that is good and all that might enact good to the glory of God and we must allow God to build us up as people and as communities of faith that will not let that happen! We must not let ourselves get lost in righteousness and as Joseph almost did, and miss the chance to be God-accompaniers. We must not think ourselves too young or too old and thereby miss our chance to be God-bearers. God would utilize us to welcome the Messiah and to help the world come to know the Messiah! The Dayspring from on high. Emmanuel, “God with Us.” Jesus, the “One Who Saves.”