Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, [behold!,] an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“[Behold!,] the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
The story of Christmas has absolutely zero in common with our snow globe nativity set. Consider Joseph. Here was an ordinary guy, excited about marrying the girl of his dreams. And in an afternoon, everything imploded. In his mind, it was over. The dignified exit strategy was all but done. Then there was the dream.
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Joseph did the hard thing. Life would not get easier. His hope for a normal life was over. Later would come yet another dream warning him to take his family and leave the country to avoid genocide. This son who was not his son would cost him everything. Joseph died to his dreams for the sake of the greater dream. Joseph, without doubt, is the most underrated and under-celebrated member of the cast of the story of Jesus. He did the hard thing.
We live in an age where even premarital purity seems too hard for many. In light of this, notice Joseph’s purity after their marriage ceremony:
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Were he among us, he would likely offer us this advice: “Do hard things. It’s worth it. And remember, sometimes what seems to be righteous may not always be right.”
Our Father in heaven, nearer than my breath, thank you for these days of Advent and this new year in Christ. In an age where I am pulled down by the gravity of such low standards and lowest-common-denominator faith, let me remember Joseph. Prepare my faith to do hard things, to make courageous decisions, and to let the outcome of good faith and hard things be its own reward. Come, Holy Spirit, and build this character in me that my legacy might point others to Jesus. In the name of Jesus Messiah—the one who came, is here, and is coming again—for his glory and our good, amen.
When is the last time you had to exercise good faith to do a hard thing? How did that go? What do you notice and appreciate about Joseph in this Advent season?
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