We don’t often think about Jesus’ birth from Joseph’s perspective, but Sunday’s Gospel lesson from Matthew tells the story from his perspective (Luke tells of Jesus’ birth from Mary’s perspective, and we’ll hear that lesson on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.)
Imagine Joseph’s position. He is betrothed to a young girl, Mary, probably no more than 14 years old. We don’t know, but it is possible that they never met, and if they had, they would certainly not have spent any time alone. He probably had paid a “bride price” to her parents. Then, she turns up pregnant. Outrageous! And to make matters worse, she insults his intelligence (and humiliates her family) by offering some cockamamie story about “God” doing this to her!
Joseph would have been within his rights to demand that she be stoned, or at minimum to publicly shame her and send her into exile. But, Matthew tells us that Joseph was a “righteous” man (read: kind and good-hearted) and did not want to take that route. So, he resolved to “divorce” her quietly (they were not married, but a betrothal was a much more serious commitment than it is today).
He is a “just man” however and not wanting a public spectacle, he decides to simply not marry her, rather than disgrace her and her family. Before he carries out his plan, an angel comes to visit Joseph and assures him that all is well with Mary and he can marry her without fear. Difficult to believe, and difficult to swallow. But Joseph has faith and believes the angel, facing the sneering and wagging fingers of the community.
How much sneering and finger wagging would you take for your trust in God? Could you do what Joseph did? We’re never promised that trusting God is easy, only that it leads us to joy in Him.
This column appeared in the December 22, 2019 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the full issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.