During Advent, we are featuring devotionals written by clergy of the Greater NJ Annual Conference of the UMC. For this second week, we are focused on reflections related to Joseph, based on the Gospel of Matthew.
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.[a]
(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.
A Letter to Joseph
What was the choice for you like… when did you really choose to stay? And at what point did you learn to love Jesus more than you loved yourself?
It feels strange, I think, that we so often leave the depth of your choice out of the birth narrative of Jesus all these years later. I mean, in case you haven’t quite noticed in the last two thousand years we’ve become a very rushed bunch… but we have this tiny section about you and the biggest decision you’ve ever made and one more story about you and Mary accidentally leaving Jesus in Jerusalem… but we’re not talking about that now.
Your choices though.. This huge choice you made, it is bigger than even these few verses can relay. When faced with a decision that many other people would have said no, and put Mary out, you said yes. You chose to love a child who had not yet been born like he was your own son. You chose to stay with Mary even though some other people may have told you to run. You stayed knowing that you could face ridicule and you could be cast out, you stayed. What a choice.
I think sometimes we have the faith of Mary- someone who doesn’t really seem to think twice, or the faith of her cousin Elizabeth who prayed constantly for her child, or for the faith of the wisemen who looked for signs of the Messiah and found Jesus. I’ve come to realize though, that more often than not we have to have your kind of faith- the kind of faith that stares down the odds, the kind of faith that falters a little bit, but that ultimately chooses to love something more than we love ourselves.
Thank you, Joseph, for your example of faith. For showing us that are choices do not always come easily… that sometimes we want to run away, make the plans to walk away, and still find ourselves in the grace of God. Thank you for giving us another example of how God takes imperfect people and makes them Holy. Thank you for saying yes, for loving Jesus and for raising him, for saying yes to this new life with Mary in spite and despite the things the society around you.
From, The readers in 2021
By the Rev. Gabrielle Corbett
For Pondering & Prayer
Have you ever thought Joseph’s thought process in the birth narrative? What about his faith is something we can learn from?
Prayer: Holy God, may we have a faith in You like Joseph. Amen.