December 21 I Wednesday
“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: 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.” —Matthew 1:18
The opening verse of this devotion has a lot loaded into it. There are some things that we need to understand both culturally as well as from the sequence of events. Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph. Culturally, Mary was more than a fiancée; a pledge was legally binding—in other words, they were considered married. Although, Joseph and Mary would not have come together physically to consummate their marriage. Their ceremony would take place about a year after this pledge.
This is where the scandal kicks in. Before the ceremony happened, an angel appeared before Mary telling her that she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. After hearing this news, Mary goes to visit a relative in another town for about three months. We do not know if Mary told Joseph about all that happened before she left, but at some point—whether before or after—Mary told Joseph what had taken place. Joseph had an opportunity to take Mary at her word, but instead, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
An angel of the Lord, however, revealed to Joseph in a powerful dream God’s plan with the Child Mary was bearing. Waking up from his dream, Joseph took Mary as his wife. When Jesus was about to be born, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that everyone should go to their own town to register. What was strange when Joseph and Mary went to Joseph’s ancestral hometown of Bethlehem was that they were seemingly alone: no family, no celebration and not even a room at the inn. Where were Joseph’s parents? Joseph’s whole ancestral tribe would be travelling to Bethlehem, certainly one of his relatives must have had space to welcome them. What is alarming in the Scriptures is that the absence and silence of Joseph or Mary’s family being there for the birth of Jesus just screams off the pages of Scripture.
Joseph and Mary faced personal turmoil likely because of this pregnancy. The absence of their family at the birth of Jesus suggests that Joseph’s own family did not believe that this pregnancy was legitimate. God placed them at odds with their own community. But this was just the beginning of the scandal Joseph and Mary had to bear to bring Jesus into the world. Eventually, prophetic turmoil led to them seeing their Son Jesus rejected by their hometown Nazareth, rejected by the religious establishment and eventually hung from a cross because of who He claimed to be. Despite all this, Joseph and Mary did not have to be afraid, because they knew without a doubt that Jesus was the Messiah that had come to rescue His people from their sins.
Prayer: Lord Heavenly Father, there are things in this life that I will never understand. Please help me to submit to Your ways and Your plans, just as Joseph and Mary did. Thank You, Lord.