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.

Matthew 1:18-25 (CEB)

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.


I grew up in a family that took care of foster children. During my lifetime my parents took in over 50 foster kids. Some were with our family for a couple of hours while the state did investigations. Other kids were a member of our family for years and years. My parents were always clear that they wanted to foster rather than adopt because of the “forever”
factor. The permanency of adoption, coupled with the legal implications, was more of a commitment than my parents wanted to make.

That changed dramatically when we fostered “the triplets”. The triplets were born in 1993 weighing under 2 lbs. each. They were medically fragile and born addicted to several illegal substances. They came to live with us when they were just 10 days old. When they were two the birth parents’ rights were terminated and the triplets were up for legal adoption. I will never forget that court hearing. The judge pronounced that due to their medical conditions, the triplets should be adopted into three separate homes. With two years of attachment in our hearts, we simply could not let that come to pass. On the spot, we decided as a family to legally adopt the triplets to keep them together. The judge agreed that the three siblings could stay together if we adopted them. Today, almost 30 years later, I can’t imagine my family without the presence of the triplets. The longevity and legal implications wound up not being a burden but a gift.

When Joseph chooses to follow God and marry Mary, he is also choosing to raise the child in her womb. When Joseph names the baby boy, he is taking on the traditional role of a Jewish father. I believe he is saying to the community- this baby boy will be raised as my own son. In this decision, Joseph is making a commitment that goes beyond the moment but stretches until death do them part. I can’t help but wonder how that commitment felt for Joseph. Was he nervous? Reluctant? Excited? Something else? As Joseph watched Jesus grow up-as he experienced those tender and loving moments with him-did Joseph feel that his call to raise Jesus as his own was a burden or a gift?

In this season of Advent waiting, how is God calling you to be faithful not just in the moment but for the long haul?

By the Rev. Jessica Campbell

For Pondering & Prayer

This week we are talking about Joseph as being “dutiful”. What does that word mean to you? In what ways are you dutiful? In what ways do you need to grow in this area?

Are there things in your life that you thought would be a burden but ended up being a gift? If so, how did that come to pass? If not, where was God through the burden?