“His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 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.” – Matthew 1:18b-19 (NIV)
In the Bible there is a man who almost missed Christmas.
It wasn’t because he was distracted with holiday parties, visiting relatives or completing his shopping list. He wasn’t stranded in an airport or battling a flu bug.
He just couldn’t see how his current circumstances were part of God’s plan for his life.
Joseph was engaged to be married to Mary, a young woman chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus. In their culture, an engagement was every bit as binding as the marriage ceremony. So when Mary returned home from spending three months out of town and told Joseph she was pregnant, all he could think of was to divorce her quietly.
Joseph knew they hadn’t been intimate – he was careful with their purity. Mary’s growing belly would give him every reason to believe she’d been unfaithful. And it wasn’t just him who would assume so. Everyone in their hometown probably knew Mary had been out of town for months, without him.
Law dictated she be stoned to death for being unfaithful to her fiancé. Instead, Joseph planned to quietly end their engagement and say nothing about the unexpected pregnancy. He was a man of integrity.
But Joseph was also a man who didn’t fully understand God’s plan, and he almost missed being part of it.
Although scripture doesn’t tell us for sure, Mary had likely explained to Joseph how the Holy Spirit came to her and placed this baby in her womb. From his perspective, this was a situation to be escaped rather than accepted as something straight from the hand of God.
Scripture explains what happened next: “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’” (Matt. 1:20-21).
What at first looked like a huge problem, a troubling circumstance, a total reputation-wrecker to Joseph, turned out to be the most glorious thing in his life when seen from God’s perspective.
From this new viewpoint, Joseph saw what an honor it was to bear this burden. What a thrill to raise and know God’s own Son!
While we may not get an angel visitation, we can pause and consider this same possibility in our lives. There have been many instances when my circumstances seemed like a detour, or even destruction, of my plans. At those times I can’t imagine God bringing anything good out of what just seems like trouble.
But the story of Joseph brings me hope. It reminds me that God’s ways aren’t my ways. And sometimes in our greatest difficulties we find our greatest opportunities and blessed responsibilities.
Joseph was given the honor of naming the baby Jesus — the very same name we call on today for help. Had Joseph walked away, divorcing Mary quietly, he would’ve missed it.
He would have missed Christmas. And he would have missed the life-defining lesson that God’s plans aren’t always logical in human eyes, but they can always be trusted.
Is there a problem you are facing today? Is it possible this could be part of God’s plans for you?
Dear Lord, thank You for Jesus. And thank You that Your plans for us are plans for good and not for evil – to give us a future and a hope. I trust You today with my life and my circumstances. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
By Rachel Olsen