Now Joseph and Mary were married. In the culture of the day, the marriage was done; the ceremony was over. All that remained was the consummation of it. In everyone’s eyes, Mary was Joseph’s wife. But she had just told him that she was pregnant. And since everyone knew that the consummation had not taken place (it, too, required a ceremony), Joseph was in great turmoil. His only solution was to divorce Mary as quietly as possible.
Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet 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.” (Matthew 1:19-21)
Joseph’s story is pretty relevant to us, isn’t it? You might be thinking: That’s me—I’m thinking about divorce this Christmas. Maybe you’re thinking about a divorce that’s already happened or is about to happen or that seems likely down the road. Such thoughts remind us of close relationships now shattered and lying all in pieces. You’ve got a heavy heart.
The fact that Christmas is a family time makes it worse, doesn’t it? When a family with broken relationships gathers to celebrate, it can be really difficult. A lot of people dread Christmas for that very reason. A lot of people have heavy hearts, and they’re tossing and turning as the holidays approach. Maybe you’re living next door to a Joseph. Maybe you work with one.
In Matthew 1, God tells Joseph, “Take Mary as your wife. Don’t be afraid to commit yourself to this marriage.” Sometimes, of course, it may already be too late for a marriage. But perhaps God is talking to us, giving us a new plan of action, one that we need to consider seriously. When Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant, it was a bolt out of the blue. It didn’t fit into any of Joseph’s plans for their life together. And it was unlike any situation he had ever encountered.
But Joseph wanted to do the right thing. And, difficult as it was, he did what God told him to do. He took this pregnant girl to be his wife and set on an adventure that the two of them would share. They would have to trust God through all the uncertainty and the questions from people who knew them. Joseph did an incredible thing: He welcomed the Christ child before the child was even born. While Christ was being formed within Mary, Joseph made a secure place for the incarnate Son of God to grow up in this world. He welcomed Jesus into an intact, stable family—not a wealthy or prestigious family, but a family under God’s care and guidance.
Likewise, as we welcome the Christ child into the shambles of our everyday existence, God will help us as we go. Joseph was a believing man, and even believing people can have messy relationships. But the Christ child waits to be welcomed in, where He can grow in our lives and change us into God’s true children.