He had already chosen his wife, Mary, when her womb was snatched away from him. He had never touched her, kissed her, stroked the small of her back or run his fingers through his hair. Maybe he had thought about it; he wouldn’t be human if he hadn’t. But that was before a divine Father claimed her as His own to bear His Son, a Son Joseph and all Israel waited for.
I imagine that in Joseph’s wildest dreams, he couldn’t have guessed the giving of the Messiah would mean the taking of his virgin wife, but it did. The greater story of Jesus required the lesser story of Joseph. For him, marriage to Mary meant a lifetime of less.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18-20)
Like every young betrothed man, he would’ve looked eagerly to the time when he would have and know his wife intimately, not just physically, but emotionally. I wonder if he found it hard to relax with her, knowing God was in her. And after Jesus was born, I wonder if he found it hard to woo and enjoy his wife intimately, knowing God had been there. I have to think God gave them a gift of newness no other couple has ever known … or needed to know. Joseph would never be the first to have Mary, and yet he took her as his own despite the assault on his reputation. He protected her and cared for her all the way to Bethlehem, staying by her side as she delivered her first baby by another Father.
Today’s audience might be tempted to think Joseph was a pushover, a man without backbone to stand up to God. In fact, he was strong enough to do the harder thing: stand with God. To lay aside fear of being less and let God use his wife, his family, his future, his manhood … for His greater story.
We rarely hear Joseph spoken about at Christmas services, but we’re so much like him. Women today fight the pressure of wanting academic and professional qualifications to lift us up the ladder of success, while being in control of our personal lives. The Christmas season has a way of stirring up a woman’s instinct to want to control her schedule, her choices, her relationships, her memories, her budget, and her emotions. We think we’ll feel better when we are in control. (God help those around us!) But God asks us to yield our expectations about what our lives will be, desires for what we want, and fears for what we should do.
God wants us to know that giving Him to the world means giving our lives to Him. Like Joseph, he wants us to embrace the background role of putting Jesus on center stage.
Could you start living like Joseph by giving God control of your Christmas plans? Your time with family? Your shopping choices? Your time? Would you dare to stop and pray right now with me that God will make us Josephs so we can show Jesus?