18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement[h] quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.
Joseph probably thought his future was pretty well planned but then his world came crashing down around him. His marriage and his vocation were all arranged neatly for him but then he discovered that his bride-to-be was pregnant. We know that Joseph was a man of integrity and wanted to do the right thing in the right way. He considered divorcing Mary when he learned of her pregnancy, but wanted to do so without calling attention to the reason. He could have had her publicly disgraced or even stoned to death for adultery, instead he risks being questioned about Mary’s pregnancy and marries her, why? Because he listened to God. So often we view prayer as us talking and God listening and responding but what we find is God sharing His plan and Joseph doing the listening and responding. If you look in your bible for a quote from Joseph you will not find one because not a single word of Joseph’s is recorded. I am sure that he did talk, I can only imagine the conversations he had with Mary and the angel Gabriel, I can hear him talking to the innkeeper, yet none of that is recorded. What is recorded is that he listens and obeys; his actions speak louder than words ever could. What scripture does record is what he did, he endured hardship and disappointment. Rarely in Christmas pageants does Joseph get a starring role, yet God thought his part was important enough to invite him in. His task is to watch over Mary and the baby Jesus, to protect and provide, to care for the needs of others. God is still calling us to be involved in His plan for the world, to care for the needs of others. Often we don’t hear and respond because we are too busy talking and waiting for Him to act. We get done praying and we expect Him to respond to us. When our lives take a nasty turn, we cry out, “God, how can this be?” But do we listen as Joseph did, have we hear His voice saying, “Trust Me”? God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Joseph had an opportunity to take part in God’s incredible plan or be put out, He could have reacted with fear or faith. We know the whole Christmas story but Joseph didn’t, he had to live it, he had to step into it with faith. We may never understand everything that God is doing this side of heaven, but God says, “Trust Me. The Christmas story teaches us about Joseph’s
We can read v. 18 and see that the child was conceived of the Holy Spirit…we know that, Mary already knew that, but Joseph did not know that yet! All he could think, naturally, was that Mary had been unfaithful, immoral. Put yourself in his shoes, it must have torn him up inside. His heart had already come to trust in her and now it had been ripped out of his chest! We see Joseph’s dilemma in v. 19, his dilemma was between the law and love. He and Mary were Jewish, the law said that if Mary were found to have been unfaithful she was to be stoned! But on the other hand, he loved her, he had a dilemma between law and love, conviction and compassion. Joseph decided that he would put her away as the law demanded but do it privately to spare her the public humiliation.
Verse 20 said “while he thought on these things” the angel came to him in a dream, sent from God, and whispered into his ear. This is one of the most profound moments in the whole bible, Jesus’ dad hears from Jesus’ Father! In this moment God reveals two secrets to Joseph to still his fears.
- The cause of Mary’s conception.
- The character of the child
This is Jesus the promised Savior, Emmanuel the promised Messiah. This is God with us, He is not far away, but with us, when I couldn’t go where He was He came to me!
Verse 24 reveals to us Joseph’s decision through his action not his word the key word: “did.” Joseph’s decision was to be faithful to the will of God. To do what God told him to do, to bear the responsibility and shame as if he and Mary had sinned! We hold them in high regard for being the people we know them to have been but it wasn’t like that in their day! They lived under a cloud of public shame, as though they were guilty of immorality, and Joseph accepted the responsibility of caring for a woman thought to have been a fornicator, and rearing a child thought to be illegitimate! It’s been said the best thing a father can do for his kids is to love their mother. Joseph’s love for Mary reflected Paul’s definition: “Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast; it is not proud or rude. Love is not self-seeking or easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but it rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (I Cor 13). Joseph stayed by Mary’s side and made the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Why? To do the will of God! In Matt. 2:14 he leads Mary and the baby Jesus into Egypt. Why? Because God told him to, later Joseph took Jesus to the temple…what’s he doing? He’s doing God’s will! Nothing greater can be said of you and I when we are dead and buried than that we did the will of God! If we’re honest, we all struggle with God’s will because we have a will of our own, a free will!
Looking forward to fathering his own child, Joseph was faced with being a step-father to a child not his own. He accepted the humbling circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth. He trusted the providential care of God every step of the way. He didn’t have any parenting books, any training on how to be a father to the Son of God, but he possessed faith and compassion. When I observe the action of this mature and responsible man; when I study his compassionate involvement, his disciplined restraint, his plain obedience, all woven together into righteous action, I know that I too can live in accordance with God’s will for my life.