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 spend a lot of our lives fighting against what is. Maybe circumstances didn’t go our way. Perhaps we feel like we’ve been deprived of opportunities. There are all kinds of ways in which life doesn’t meet our expectations. (Aaaand….cue 2020!)
Consider again the story of Mary and Joseph. The Christmas story has, at its heart, some real human drama. There’s a crisis here that’s far from the plot of a sitcom or a Hallmark movie.
A young woman’s life is totally upended. And for her fiancé, there’s a decision to be made: whether or not to go through with the wedding. Now, this is a decision with serious implications in any time & place. But particularly in the first century, the news the angelic messengers brought was downright dangerous. According to Deuteronomy 22, there was the distinct possibility that Mary might be stoned for adultery, or even – as we see in some places today – threatened by her own clan for “besmirching” the family’s honor. And if Joseph turned her away, the possibility of Mary finding another husband, and some security for this new baby – was remote. Joseph had a reputation as a “righteous” man – what would he do?
Christmas requires two people to put their futures, their reputations, and even their lives on the line in order to carry out the will of God. This is the moment where Joseph decides that it’s he and Mary against the world – and that Jesus would be raised as his son, no matter what. They would trust in each other, and they would trust in God’s vision for their lives.
Christmas begins with the faith of a couple who recognized that “righteousness” meant trust – not in the rules, but in God’s vision for their lives.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Have you experienced a time when God’s vision for your life seemed radically different than your own? How did you respond?
Prayer: Holy God, when we see those places where your vision for our lives is at odds with ours, help us to respond out of faith. Remind us that in order to pursue righteousness, we need to learn to trust your vision, even when you lead us down paths we did not expect. Amen.