“God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life."
Our journey began with Mary and her perspective of the Christmas story. I hope you were blessed in some way. Today we are continuing our journey through Joseph's eyes. A story not told by many but still can help us with our understanding.
To gain a little more perspective why Joseph would marry his wife and why they would divorce yet they weren't living together, let's look at the customs back then. By the time we get to our story the first stage of the relationship is over, the engagement, where the parents have picked a husband for Mary and he has agreed to marry her. They are now in the betrothal stage. This is when the engagement has become binding and lasts a year where the couple is called husband and wife, yet they still don't live together or conduct themselves as husband and wife. This part of their relationship can only be broken by divorce and it is usually because of unfaithfulness of one to the other. If this betrothal time lasts the year, there would be the wedding. Here is where we begin.
I'm such a lucky man. Mary is so wonderful and beautiful from the inside out. She not only has a love for God, but she has already shown such love for my children. She will be a wonderful helpmate and our home will be filled with such love, laughter, and joy. I can't wait until this year is up and we can begin our journey together. I hope she will always be happy with me. I may not be rich, but I will always take care of her and our family.
I was musing in the coolness one evening about my future with Mary when my life was forever changed. Mary came to see me, and I could tell she had, had a bad day. She looked so upset and her tear stained face sent panic through me. Were the children okay, had something happened to her parents? As I went to comfort her, I never expected such disastrous news as she shared with me.
My betrothed, the woman I loved, pregnant? To say the least my first reaction was anger. I was furious with the woman I had fallen in love with. I felt betrayed knowing this was not my child and what she had done to become pregnant. Then my heart broke knowing what would happen next. Her betrayal would mean divorce and her life would be ruined, she would be most likely flogged in the town square and then socially marked as an outcast to her friends and family and be treated as a harlot. My public disgrace would be nothing compared to what she was going to go through. Yet I still loved her so much. I stood there speechless praying for this to be untrue and trying to think of ways that I could fix it so we could be together.
As hurt and anger filled my soul, Mary begged for me to listen to her explain. Against my better judgement I listened to her tell of an Angel and the Holy Spirit and God's child. She spoke quickly, almost in a panic, to get everything out there before I rejected her. Now, I may be a simple carpenter, but I'm not a foolish man. Her story sounded as if she had lost her mind. How could any human being believe God made a virgin to become pregnant without the key component of intimacy with another?
When Mary was finished talking, we both just sat there. I loved her deeply, but I knew in my heart what had to be done, I couldn't marry a woman carrying another man's child. I couldn't bring that influence into my home or put my children through the ridicule and gossip they would get. But, I also couldn't publicly hurt Mary like that. I couldn't bear the thought of destroying her like that.
As Mary asked for forgiveness, I decided that even though we couldn't be together I would divorce her quietly. I told her I needed to sleep on it and would decide come morning.
That night sleep eluded me. Every bone in my body wanted to believe Mary and still marry her but my logic kept getting in the way. If we married and this came out, I would be just as much an outcast as her. No one would do business with me so my career would be over and life would become difficult for my children as our family and friends would cast us aside, as if we had been struck with leprosy. I battled most of the night until, out of exhaustion, I fell asleep.
As I slept, I had such a vivid dream I felt as if it were real. It started off in my workshop as I chiseled away at some wood, filling the room with the smell of fresh cut wood, my favorite. As I worked the sounds around me faded in a sweet sound of music filled its space. As I looked up from my work, there in front of me stood a tall man dressed in white, a sword sheath at his waist and his wings spread high out over his broad shoulders. I stood speechless for I knew the stories of old, of God's presence and Angels visiting my ancestors. I bowed knowing I was in the presence of holiness.
Then the Angel spoke, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus, he will save people from their sins.”
As quickly as he appeared the Angel was gone. I awoke suddenly, sweat on my brow, but my heart and mind had found peace. I no longer worried about what I needed to do. I would take Mary as my wife and trust the message from God through his Angel.
I could hardly wait to find Mary come morning. The name Jesus still in my mind. Jesus, the Lord of Salvation. When I found Mary my heart broke. I could tell she had spent the night crying and as she looked at me with apprehension and hope, it took all I had not to explode with excitement. I calmly took her hands and led her to her favorite bench. With a smile on my face, I told her about the dream I had and that I still wanted to see her. With joy in our hearts, we agreed to keep this whole matter to ourselves and trust that God would work things out according to His purpose and what He wanted accomplished.
We were soon married and began settling into our new lives and prepared our children and home for a new baby. Although there was gossip and murmurs, Mary and I endured through them knowing the baby she was carrying was coming to do far more for God's people than a little gossip could. Unfortunately, as Mary shared, we were called to Bethlehem in her ninth month, for a census.
I was not happy at the timing. Not only was Mary due anytime, but the travel would be horrible for her. But Mary was a trooper and endured the dusty trail of bumps and ruts along the way. By the time we arrived in Bethlehem I knew Mary was in labor. Although she tried to hide it, I could see the pain all over her face. I knew I had to get her to an inn quickly, so she had a bed to rest in for the birth, but as I knocked on each door and was turned away for lack of room, I grew more impatient and frustrated. I begged and pleaded, surprised that no one had pity on a woman in labor, which surprised me even more. Finally, at one of our last hopes, we found an innkeeper who took pity on us. He also had no room but said we could stay in his stables. He gave us a blanket and a couple of lanterns and sent us on our way. I was not happy, but having no alternative, graciously accepted.
I did my best to make a bed of hay for Mary, but my heart was hurting. Hurting that my wife had to deliver in such filth and hurting that God's own son had to come into the world in such loneliness. He deserved so much more than a smelly barn filled with animals.
Before long I got to look at my beloved as she lay there, exhausted yet overjoyed, holding our baby boy. This tiny, cute perfect baby who was swaddled in the clothes we brought for ourselves. I wondered why God would leave the beauty, the peace, and the happiness of heaven to become this poor helpless infant. Not a King, not a warrior, a baby. Not to a Kingdom or into riches but to me and my wife, humble people from Nazareth. As Jesus looked up at me, tears filled my eyes. I remembered the promise from Prophet Isaiah, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Immanuel, meaning God with us. Needless to say, I was humbled at the thought that God sent his son to be close to us, to touch us, to become like us so that we could become like Him.
I took Jesus from Mary so she could rest and laid the Most High in the manger knowing I would never be the same again. As we lay there in the quiet stillness the impact began to hit us. Raising a child is hard enough but now we'd be raising the Almighty Himself in the flesh. How are we going to do this? Yet, despite my thoughts, I knew that regardless, he was just as much a child as I had been. God called on me for this great responsibility and I will do everything in my power to do as I've been asked. I wish I could say our night was sound and we slept, but God wasn't finished with His miracles just yet. But that's not my story to tell.
Thursday we will hear from the shepherds.