Thursday, December 8, 2011

CONSIDER JOSEPH

"This is how the birth of Jesus came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph  her husband was a righteous man and 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.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel ~ which means God with us.' When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus."
~Matthew 1:18-25

This passage is such a beautiful, raw illustration of how the birth of Jesus came about. It cries out to me to consider a key figure, Joseph, and the role he played in ushering the son of God into the world. We read that Joseph is pledged to wed Mary when he discovers she is pregnant. Because he knows he isn't the child's father, he assumes that Mary has been intimate with another man...a very reasonable conclusion on his part! Being an honorable man, he plans to break the engagement quietly.

I have to pause here and try to visualize what is happening in the lives of these "common" people. I can only imagine the hurt, disappointment, and anger Joseph must be feeling as the news sinks in. Perhaps he is even questioning his own judgment in agreeing to marry a young woman capable of such an act. My guess is that the recent events, coupled with an array of painful emotions, has left him in a bit of a fog.

But Joseph has a dream that literally changes everything. In this dream, an angel reveals to him that Mary's baby has been conceived by the Holy Spirit.  The angel implores Joseph to put aside his fears about marrying Mary. This goes against all reason. For Joseph to marry her in her present condition is a direct contradiction to everything he has been taught. He knows the possible consequence of their dire situation. But the angel presses on, making Joseph privy to information only heaven can make sense of. She will give birth to a son...Jesus...and this baby will save the people from their sins.

If that isn't enough to astound and amaze the reader, Joseph follows the urgent pleas of the angel from his dream and pulls through, saving Mary from disgrace (and possible stoning). In doing so, he provides her unborn baby with the legitimacy he needs to  enter the world a healthy baby boy, safe from the fallout of an unwed pregnancy. And all because of a dream...

Why is Joseph so inspiring? What impresses me most about this young man is his conviction to do the right thing. At first, he makes up his mind to quietly separate himself from Mary. Despite the fact that he must be hurt by her assumed actions, he thinks about Mary's welfare and how best to protect her and the baby in their perilous circumstances. But a message in a dream completely changes his prespective on the situation. With that change comes a shift in his plans. He chooses to think the best of Mary and embrace the miraculous. Does he know that a real angel has spoken to him in his dream? I don't know. My guess is that the dream opens the door for Joseph to consider an alternate plan ~ one that puts Mary in a much better light, and one that will ensure the safety of her and her unborn child. And he does the honorable thing.

Joseph challenges me! He challenges me to be courageous and to do the right thing ~ even when it hurts...even when it doesn't make much sense...even when it looks like I will get the short end of the stick. He challenges me to see other people and circumstances in a positive light ~ to stop complaining and judging, and to look for the very best in them. He challenges me to live my life based on what I believe rather than what I feel.

Without Joseph, I think there would have been no Jesus. He was a key figure that was needed to make it all work out. A man, hand-picked by God himself to be the earthly father of his son, is certainly worth considering.
                     

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