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This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be 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.
We know so little about Joseph. He is only mentioned in the birth and childhood stories of Jesus. He was named after an ancient patriarch who used his success in Egypt to save his family and a future nation. Joseph was a carpenter who lived in the town of Nazareth. His ancestors were from Bethlehem. So when a Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, wanted to take a census, Joseph had to go back to Bethlehem even though his wife was well along in her pregnancy.
The most important thing we know about Joseph is that when the time called for it, he displayed great faith and grace. He found out that the woman to whom he was engaged to be married was pregnant. While Mary had the benefit of an angel to explain her unique conception, Joseph had not been visited yet. All he had was Mary’s word. So what was that conversation like? No, she hadn’t slept with another man. Yes, she was pregnant. And yes, a spiritual being had told her she would conceive by a unique act of God. And as if that weren’t enough—the child in her womb would be the Savior of the world.
Why did Joseph believe her? Why did he change his first plans to quietly divorce her so as not to expose her to public shame? (Engagements were so serious back then that to break one off amounted to getting a divorce.) If you were in his shoes, would you have believed Mary?
Here is something for all of us to think about at Christmas. Think of Joseph. Think of him looking into Mary’s eyes, hearing her account, knowing in his heart of hearts it’s true, and having the courage to act on that faith even though he may have had doubts. As nonsensical as it seemed, he believed it. As much as the idea of a virginal conception violates both logic and science (even the rudimentary science of a millennia ago), Joseph knew it was possible with God. As risky as it was to stay with Mary and be branded by others as the hapless dupe of an immoral woman, Joseph decided to take that leap of faith.
That is true faith. It wasn’t just that he trusted Mary. Joseph trusted God—that God could, that God might, that God would.
Prayer for today:
God, give me Joseph’s courage and iron-strong faith. Give me faith to believe that, at the birth of Jesus, you really did enter this world—my world—and you’re still working powerfully in it.