Joseph was engaged to the love of his life. He must have been ecstatic at the thought of taking beautiful young Mary as his bride, building a life together, and raising a family. Soon they would exchange vows, and then be alone, away from the whispers and nods and advice of the elders in their village. Everything was looking up. He even had a respectable trade as carpenter and mason, which would allow him to provide for his new wife and the children that would surely come.
Then a piece of news he couldn’t have imagined rocked his world. Mary was pregnant! How could this be? They had not lain together. And he’d never believe his betrothed would sleep with another man.
He must have wrestled with God in prayer over this grave situation, tossing and turning at night, wondering how to respond to such an agonizing dilemma. He loved this woman, yet he loved God and his law more.
When Mary told Joseph the Holy Spirit had come upon her and that she was to carry the Light of the World, Jesus, Son of the most high God, he had every right to feel betrayed, even disgraced. What a story! It was clear the child was not his. Was she making up these details to save face? Infidelity carried a serious social stigma. Joseph not only had the right to divorce Mary, but under Jewish law she could be stoned to death.
His initial reaction was to break the engagement, the most appropriate thing for a righteous man to do. But instead he treated his beloved with great kindness. The last thing he wanted was for her to be shamed in front of the townspeople and worse, to lose her life. The question remained—what was he to do?
God met Joseph—in the nick of time––right where he was. He sent an angel to his servant in a dream to affirm Mary’s story and reassure Joseph that his marriage to Mary was God’s will. The angel explained that the Holy Spirit had conceived the child, his name would be Jesus and that he was the Messiah––God with us––the one who would save the world.
When Joseph awakened from his dream, he obeyed God and took Mary home to be his wife, despite the public humiliation he would face. He was a good, faithful and gentle man and perhaps that was why God had chosen him to be Christ’s earthly father.
How humbled and honored Joseph must have felt when he recalled the prophecy found in chapter seven of the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Months later Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken. Every person in the entire Roman world had to go to his own town to register. Joseph, who was from the line of David, was required to go to Bethlehem to register with Mary. What a challenging journey this must have been for both of them. By then Mary was close to delivering her baby, the weather and travel conditions were against them, and they had no one to turn to for help or shelter.
When there was no room in any of the inns Joseph had to subject his young wife to a crude stable. While there the child was born. How could things get any worse? And yet God was with them once again, providing a small manger to hold the babe, sending angels on high to praise the newborn king, and a bright star to guide the shepherds and wise men that visited.
Joseph would face more challenges as the young family grew but he remained faithful to God and to his wife and children, becoming an example for followers of Jesus throughout the centuries to honor and admire.
[*Based on the accounts in the Gospels in the Bible.]