Weddings are wonderful! The decorations, the entertainment, the beautiful dresses, the delicious food. Each marriage celebration I’ve attended has been memorable but my own wedding is, by far, my favorite! A fairy tale story.
This was not Mary and Joseph’s experience. They did not choose each other out of love – their marriage was pre-arranged and it started with Mary carrying a child that did not belong to Joseph.
Luke 1 sets the stage for our first week in this Advent with a Twist series. An angel appeared to Mary. The long awaited Isaiah 7:14 prophecy was at last being fulfilled. While Mary knew this was a God ordained moment – would anyone else believe her? How would Joseph respond to the news that his soon-to-be wife was having someone else’s baby?
The Bible gives us little glimpses into the man of Joseph. He was a direct descendant of King David. His family belonged to Bethlehem. He was a carpenter. He was committed to following God’s laws. He was gracious. He was respected. He seems, in general, to be a pretty stand up guy!
But Joseph must have felt insulted by this turn of events. His future wife, who appeared to have been unfaithful, claimed to be carrying the Messiah. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time the Jewish people had heard this kind of announcement – an Old Testament prophecy used to cover up sinful choices.
But Joseph was a man of kind integrity. Instead of humiliating Mary by publicly divorcing her, since he knew that would disgrace her entire family, he decided to act gently and divorce her quietly. Well, at least that was Joseph’s plan… until an angel appeared to him. Matthew 1 reveals that after this encounter with the angel, Joseph did what God commanded and took Mary home as his wife.
In that moment, he chose to love his wife and (adopted) Son.
One could even suppose that it is because Joseph loved God that he chose to honor his commitment to Mary. There may or may not have been much affection between the two, we don’t really know. But we do know that when God told Joseph to make Mary his wife, he obeyed. Sometimes obedience to God is the first act of love.
We often misunderstand love. We treat it as a feeling that’s perfectly packaged like our Christmas gifts. But love is not a feeling. It’s an action. It’s a choice that we must actively make each and every day. It is not always easy but it is patient and kind. It protects and trusts and hopes and perseveres.
The act of love from Joseph is a beautiful illustration of God’s unparalleled love for us. A love that took Jesus, the Christ Child, from that crude cradle to the cruel cross. A selfless and reckless love that chooses us and chases us and pursues us and fights for us. A love that never gives up.
This Christmas season let’s follow Joseph’s example (despite our circumstances) to faithfully love the people around us, the God who made us, and Jesus who rescued us.