As we continue to read the Christmas story, I often find that we tend to overlook one main person in the unfolding drama, one half of the key love story about to be affected.
Joseph: A faithful follower of God, a kind man, engaged to Mary. And as engagements were usually a few years long, we expect he had been looking forward to marrying her.
We don’t know who told Joseph that Mary was pregnant. Likely her father, possibly a local gossip or nosy neighbour. Matthew 1:18 only tells us Mary was ‘found’ to be pregnant, probably when she returned home after being with Elizabeth. And that Joseph was struggling with wanting to follow the law (which would publicly accuse her of adultery) and discreetly divorcing her in private.
To me? That signifies he was a man in agony, trying to honor his God while his heart was shattering.
And then God sends an angel to visit Joseph’s dream and explain how Mary was carrying the supernaturally conceived Messiah, to be named Jesus.
Somehow, this dream is vivid and real enough that Joseph took Mary home as his wife, but respectfully did not consummate the marriage until after Jesus was born. And Joseph named him Jesus as intructed by the angel.
Joseph’s struggle & obedience signify a man who feels deeply – both his faith & his love for his wife. I think it’s because of his humanity yet humility to follow that God chose Joseph as Jesus’ earthy father.
Because for Joseph, the story of the miraculous conception would not have ended with their marriage. As anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of gossip knows, the stigma of having a child before marriage in Jesus’ day was literally setting yourself up to be unkindly shunned, snubbed, and/or shouted at.
Joseph taking Mary as his wife shows how he literally took on his share of that shame from Mary, to equally yoked himself to her – for better or worse.
To me, Joseph may be a person who blends mostly into the background of Jesus’ upbringing, but he stepped up to parent Jesus even before He was born, at great personal cost.
I firmly believe God chose both Jesus’ parents well. Good job, God!