Part 3–Joseph

Joseph was thrust into a predicament of catastrophic magnitude by the coming of the Messiah.  I can hardly imagine the devastation he must have felt in discovering Mary was pregnant. Did she tell him? Did it reach him through the rumor mill of Nazareth? Did Elizabeth possibly intercede for Mary and communicate with Joseph the special circumstances of this pregnancy?

No matter where he heard the news, it stopped him in his tracks. It was that intense, earth-shattering moment in his life–nothing will ever be the same. From then on, Joseph would look back at that watershed instant when everything had changed.

I know that feeling. Do you? An instant–good, bad, painful, exciting–where you know circumstances have suddenly thrust your life in a totally different direction then you ever expected. For Joseph that was the moment he heard of the Messiah’s coming.

It was too personal! To painful! To unbelievable! Joseph, being a just man, could not marry a woman who had apparently compromised her purity. But being a man of mercy  he could not allow her to suffer publicly either. And so he chose the path of justice and mercy–a private divorce, the pain of which would haunt him interminably and would likely render Mary destitute. What a heartbreaking decision that must have been.

I don’t know how he managed to sleep in the midst of this trial, but he did. Perhaps the respite of sleep was his only hope. And truly respite did come, for the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. It is worth noting that Joseph is the only character in the advent story to have three dreams where the Angel of the Lord, not Gabriel, appeared to him.  He received both reassurance and a mandate. Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. Her child is the Messiah. Name him Jesus for He will save His people from their sins. No longer conflicted about the right course of action, Joseph awoke and did exactly what he had been told to do. Joseph walked the fragile path of obedience, away from the security of the known, away from normal, away from the expected, and into the eternal redemption plan of God. The agony he faced became the venue through which he received ultimate joy.

Joseph was right. Things would never be the same for him, for Mary, for their family.   But what he could only begin to imagine, was that things would never be the same for anyone! This cataclysmic event, so intimate for him, would change the course, not only of his life, but of human history.


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