Matthew’s version of the Christmas story is short and simple compared to Luke’s dramatic version. There are no shepherds or glorious angels, no harrowing journey to Bethlehem or the drama of giving birth in a stable. We may not get the exciting version in Luke, but Matthew gives Joseph a bigger role than bystander.
He has a decision to make. Because he and Mary weren’t official yet and she was having someone elses baby, he knew he couldn’t keep her. The law told him to disgrace her. The law, given to God’s people by God, told him to get rid of Mary and the baby. permanently. The teachers and leaders would have advised Joseph to follow the law. He knew he should set Mary aside and was prepared to find a way to dismiss Mary without the brutal repercussions of the law taking place.
God gave Joseph a new option. He gave him the radical notion to set the law aside instead of Mary and choose mercy. God showed Joseph that the rules don’t always apply and he gave Joseph a new law…love.
What happens when God’s law and God’s love don’t seem to match up? A radical shift. At some point we will all have to play the part of Joseph, choosing between what we thought was the law or rules we have grown up with and choosing love.
The life of Christ brought a new law to the world. No longer are we bound by the old law, defining our lives, who we are, who is in and who is out. Instead we can be comforted by the new law knowing that grace and love trump shame and evil. But be aware, the new law isn’t always easy. It makes us examine our hearts, forcing ourselves to toss out preconceived notions of who our neighbor is, how we feel about those who are different from us. The new law asks us to push back at convention and easy assumptions.
This time of year, the Christmas carols can tell us so much about the story we love and what that story really means if we look beyond the shiney, store window version. O Holy Night tells us about God’s law vs. God’s love.
Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother, His law is love and his gospel is peace.
Two thousand years ago, God’s law and God’s love didn’t seem to match up. But by taking a closer look we see that law and love did match up and they still do because God’s law is God’s love. In the battle of love vs. law…they can both win when the law is love because love wins, every time.