I have decided to go a little bit different direction in this series of posts about what was given that first Christmas (as we know it). I was going to dwell on Mary more, but have decided to write about Joseph's side of the story.
Mary and Joseph were already promised to one another; they were in a courtship. Their families got together for dinners and Jacob would nudge his wife and draw her attention to each time that Joseph tried to be near Mary by helping her in the kitchen. She looked at Jacob with satisfaction in her eyes at this selection of a bride for their son. They knew that Mary was a good girl and had come from good stock! Mary's parents, said to be Joachim and Anne, were so proud of their little girl and how she had shown such devotion to God. They had watched Joseph for a long time and knew that he would be a good husband for their Mary and provide well for her. Everyone seemed happy with the arrangement and the romance was budding.
Then one night Joseph's world turned upside down seemingly. Mary told him she was expecting a baby. He was shocked and couldn't believe what she was telling him. The families noticed something was wrong when they came in so abruptly from sitting on the porch. Mary was pale and asked to be excused. Joseph's face was drawn. A white line traced his pursed lips as he sat stunned, unable to move. "I am Joseph", he kept thinking to himself. "I am a just man and upright. I keep the commandments of my father and mother, I obey the laws of this land. How could this happen? My betrothed is with child and she hasn't slept with me. I cannot tell anyone. I don't want to expose her sin, yet I don't want to marry her. I will just quietly try to break our engagement and go on with my life somehow."
In those days, breaking a betrothal or engagement was not an easy matter. Joseph knew things were going to be ugly as soon as people began to notice Mary's growing belly. He didn't know how long he sat there, but finally realized his family had long since gone to bed without him. He slowly made his way with heavy steps and stooping shoulders into his room and fell into bed, clothes and all. He slept fitfully.
Joseph awoke early the next morning just as the sunshine peeked over the horizon into his window. He felt unexplainable peace when he remembered the dream. An angel of the Lord had come and told him he didn't have to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. It was all going to work out. The angel tried to explain it to him, but it was so hard for Joseph to grasp. The angel said that the baby Mary carried was conceived of the Holy Ghost. Her baby was going to be a boy and they were to name Him Jesus. The angel said this Baby was going save His people from their sins and this was fulfilling a prophecy from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14) about 740 years earlier.
Joseph dressed quickly and went to tell Mary everything was going to be ok. Relief washed over her face as he told her of his dream. Mary sighed deeply as she watched him tell what she had already known. The awkwardness Mary and Joseph had felt the night before was gone. They were in this together and Mary was so glad she had Joseph to be with her.
Here, the writer, Matthew, leaves out a lot. He wrote that Joseph woke up and did what the angel told him to do and married Mary. He woke up and married her immediately? I doubt it. There had to be a span of time here just as there is in the last verse of this chapter (Matthew 1). Though we don't know the exact events that took place here, we can imagine what Joseph and Mary had to go through.
Can you imagine the gossip that went on as soon as people found out that Mary was expecting? People ridiculed and sneered when Joseph tried to explain he had not slept with Mary. They mocked and turned up their noses as Mary walked into a room. She felt their cruel looks burn to the core of her very being. "Who does she think she is to say that God chose her to bear His Son. How ridiculous is that?"
And who believes Joseph? "He says he hasn't slept with Mary? Yeah, whatever! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened!" Little did they know. Joseph didn't even sleep with Mary until after she gave birth to Jesus. What couple could do that today; be married for several months and not get together?!
To the very end, Joseph remained an honorable man, no matter what others thought. He could have chosen to make a public example of Mary, or break their engagement and secretly do away with her. Instead he gave up his reputation, or what others thought of him, to do what was right.
This story is not quite over. Hopefully you will come back next Tuesday to find out the rest! Until then,