Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. (Matthew 1:18-20)
In Luke’s telling of the Christmas story, when the shepherds came running and found the baby Jesus and revealed what the angels had announced to them in the field, Mary “pondered” all these things in her heart (Luke 2:19). In Matthew’s account, we learn that Joseph had some pondering of his own, a pondering of a different sort.
Joseph was “betrothed” to Mary. Legally, it was more binding than what we would today call an “engagement,” but they were not yet living together as husband and wife, as the marriage had not yet been consummated. But one day, while he was making his plans and preparations, Joseph suddenly learned some very disturbing news: Mary was pregnant — and Joseph was not the father.
Joseph was shattered. The life he was preparing would now not take place. His dream was irreparably broken. He turned the matter over and over in his thoughts, his head in hard tension with his heart. He was bewildered. Had Mary betrayed him? It certainly seemed that way to him — he had not yet realized that the child she carried inside her was of the Holy Spirit.
Now he considered what he must do. The choice before him was not whether to continue the marriage. It was a foregone conclusion that he would not. Could not. The only decision was whether he would allow Mary to be subjected to public disgrace. But he was a “just man,” a man who understood something about covenant love, and he was not willing for her to be openly shamed. So he would divorce her quietly. Just sign the papers and walk away. But while he was pondering these things, he had a dream. An angel of the Lord came to him and said,
Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.Then Joseph woke up and did as the angel of the Lord told him — he took Mary as his wife, just as he had planned. But everything was different now, and that would be okay. Because now he realized that this was part of a much bigger plan. Not his own plan, but God’s. A plan that meant great healing and forgiveness for his people — and for the world. Mary gave birth to a son, and Joseph called his name Jesus. God with us in a new, and redemptive, way.
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:20-23)
And that was something for Joseph to ponder the rest of his life.
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles
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