Devotion for the Week...
Christmas season is in full swing around here now. We had breakfast with Santa on Saturday morning 😊 It's an annual fundraiser for our local fire department and there's always a good turnout, with lots of little ones running around. Have you enjoyed any Christmas traditions this week?
This is now the second week of Advent. Last week we considered Elizabeth and her role in the Christmas story, as well as what her story might have to teach us about our own lives. This week we're going to look at Joseph.
Once again, the Biblical account is pretty sparse on details about Joseph. In Matthew 1:19 we are told that Joseph "was faithful to the law." In Luke 1:4 we learn that he "belonged to the house and line of David" and in Matthew 13:55 Jesus is referred to as "the carpenter’s son" so we know Joseph's occupation. That's about all we know about him as a person, but let's take a look at his part in the Christmas story.
"This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about:
His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they
came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream
and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as
your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins...When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus" (Matthew 1:18-21, 24,25).
So here's Joseph, ready to get married. He's a good man, faithful to the law and expecting a wife who would also be faithful to the law. Then he finds out his betrothed in pregnant! He knows full well the child isn't his, (can't possibly be his!), so it would seem that Mary is not the woman Joseph was expecting her to be. And even though they weren't actually married yet, they were betrothed, which was a binding arrangement and would require a divorce to be undone.
Joseph decided to divorce her quietly, to spare her the public disgrace of him making a big deal about the unexpected pregnancy. It's hard to say how he felt about this change of plans. Marriages at that time were mostly arranged, not based on love and choice as our marriages are, so we don't know how Joseph felt about Mary.
Regardless, Joseph figured out how he would handle the situation, and then, after he had come up with a solution that he was comfortable with, an angel came to him in the night and completely changed things again! The angel told him to marry her after all, that everything would be okay and that the child Mary carried was the Messiah that had been promised.
I can only imagine how that set Joseph's head spinning! I mean, any man would feel the weight of responsibility when bringing a new baby into their home, a baby they now have to clothe and feed and house...but to bring the Son of God into his home? To be responsible for raising God's son? How overwhelming must that have felt to Joseph? And yet, Joseph didn't hesitate. We're told that when he woke up, Joseph did what the angel commanded him and married Mary.
The biggest thing that strikes me in this part of the story is that God used the plans that were already in place, but He changed them slightly to accommodate His plan. Joseph and Mary planned to get married. Eventually children would follow. God just stepped in and shifted the plan a little. The marriage would still take place, but now the first Child would be God's, followed by other children who were naturally born to Mary and Joseph (see Matthew 13:55-56).
The other thing that strikes me is Joseph's willingness to accept God's changes to his plans. Joseph could have refused to marry Mary. He could have doubted the story about the baby's conception, or he could have decided it wasn't worth the scorn he probably endured from townsfolk who thought the baby was his. He could have decided he didn't want to raise a child not his own. There were any number of reasons Joseph could have turned away from the plans God had for him, but he didn't. He accepted what God wanted him to do and just went ahead with the revised plan.
Do we share Joseph's willingness to accept changes to our plans? How do we react when God steps in and alters our plans to better suit His bigger plan? Do we sulk and mope, whining about how we intended things to go? Or do we roll with it, accepting the changes and moving forward in what God has planned for us? Obviously, sulking and moping isn't the right response, though I have to admit that sometimes I'm tempted to choose that attitude.
Hopefully from now on we'll think of Joseph whenever we're tempted to whine about changes to our plans.