The Christmas story is undoubtedly the greatest story ever told. The gospel of Matthew gives us a different viewpoint of the Christmas story, as viewed from the eyes of Joseph.
Although Mary often receives a lot of attention when talking about the Christmas story, and rightly so, but that should not overshadow the significant role Joseph plays. His choices could have ended this story even before it began.
As Matthew introduces us to Joseph and Mary, he openly describes their situation, which would have been highly scandalous in the Jewish culture. Mary, who was engaged, was found to be with child, and Matthew quickly explains that it was a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit. It’s that announcement that will test every fiber of Joseph’s faith.
Tests are a part of life. Tests are not a sign you have made a wrong turn but reveal how much you’ve grown and an opportunity to exercise faith. Tests also reveal what areas of our lives need attention.
The obstacles we often pray to avoid are moments God uses to affirm and build our faith. Without tests, there are no testimonies!
One of the first things we learn about Joseph is that he is a just man. Not a perfect man. A just man. The Greek word translated as “just” describes a person who has conformed their standards to the Word of God.
Joseph sacrificed his opinions on the altar of God’s Word.
Those who stand by their own judgments, apart from truth, often create more problems than they solve, burn bridges instead of building them, and create division when we are called to unity.
Joseph had every right to divorce Mary for her perceived unfaithfulness. In fact, not doing so, culturally, would portray indifference to her immorality and question his adherence to God’s law.
Furthermore, inaction would incur greater shame upon him and his family name. And in an honor/shame culture, this was fatal.
By divorcing Mary, Joseph would also be entitled to reclaim the dowry paid to Mary’s family, which could have been a sizable amount of money.
Furthermore, shaming Mary would deflect the humiliation from him and redirect it exclusively on Mary and her family. Yet, when you must devalue others to maintain or raise your value, you are already bankrupt.
And it’s here that we discover another critical characteristic in Joseph; he paused to give thought to his response. How often have we spoken too soon or acted prematurely and made a bigger mess?
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22
Joseph waited before acting on his initial intentions, and that’s when God spoke to him. God gives him a different instruction.
God reminds Joseph of his heritage as a descendant of King David to inform him of his critical role in God’s redemptive plan. In Jewish culture, your ancestry was connected to your father.
Once Joseph is reminded of this, Mary’s situation becomes more understandable and believable. It also gave him the required conviction to press through whatever difficulty lay ahead.
In verse 21, God informs Joseph that Mary will bear a son, and He shall be called Jesus. This may seem inconsequential because it’s just a name, but that is not the case in Jewish culture.
When a father gives a child their name, he declares, this is my child. He is mine. He belongs to me. I am his father. God is instructing Joseph to raise Jesus as his own!
When Joseph awakes from this encounter, “he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” Typically, an engagement would last a year while the groom was building a home for him and his bride.
Joseph breaks protocol and immediately begins the processional and takes Mary as his wife.
At several points along the way, the story of Christmas could have come to a crashing halt. However, this would not be the last attempt to exterminate God’s promised Messiah.
Yet when we are obedient to the Word of God and walk in the will of God, we may face obstacles along the way, but they cannot keep God’s plans from unfolding in our life!
The Christmas story is filled with the miraculous and reminds us to maintain hope even amid uncertainty and intense difficulty!