18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. 20 As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled:
23 Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son,
And they will call him, Emmanuel.
(Emmanuel means “God with us.”)
24 When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he didn’t have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. Joseph called him Jesus.
We don’t know much about Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph. What we know comes from accounts in Matthew and Luke. Joseph is silent, no word of his was recorded in the New Testament. We know he descends from the house of David. He was a skilled worker and lived in Nazareth. Joseph was a righteous man, which meant he obeyed the law of Moses. So when he found out that Mary, his betrothed was pregnant, he decided to not humiliate her and call off their engagement quietly. The scriptures in Matthew and Luke don’t tell us why Joseph decided to spare Mary, perhaps because he cared about her. Under the law, Joseph is within his right to publicly put Mary aside and let her suffer the shame and judgement that would come from the community; or worse, she could be stoned for adultery. So why doesn’t Joseph, a righteous man, follow the letter of the law and let Mary be judged? Joseph, while he may have felt shocked and angry, decided to show compassion to Mary. He didn’t follow the letter of the law, he followed the spirit and intent of the law, which is to show love.
As Joseph is deciding what to do an angel appears to him in a dream, telling him not to be afraid to marry Mary, because the baby has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. This child will save God’s people from their sins and Joseph is to name him Jesus. Joseph wakes up and is obedient to God’s command and marries Mary. What if Joseph had said “No” and refused to marry Mary? Yet it seems, without any questions or complaints, none that were recorded, Joseph follows God’s instructions. Joseph has faith in God and trusts that he can play his part in the birth of the Messiah.
by Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
Two more times God will call on Joseph to act to protect baby Jesus by taking the family to Egypt and then returning. Joseph continues to trust God and be obedient because he knows that God is faithful.
How often do we judge people when we are called to be people of love? It can be hard to show compassion rather than anger, yet this is what Jesus calls us to do, to follow the law of love and forgiveness as we have been loved and forgiven by God through Christ Jesus. This Christmas season, suspend your judgement and show compassion, as Jesus calls us to do.
Prayer: Holy and Loving God, help us to listen and be obedient when you call on us to act and renew our hearts with your love and compassion, so that we can share your love with others. Amen.