[Matt. 1: 18-25- Meditations on the lives of Joseph and Mary and the Birth of the Lord Jesus.]
Mary was a virgin. She didn’t kow she was going to be THE virgin that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. She had no idea that her life was going to be a fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. No idea that through all her single life of probably waiting and praying for the right husband, God was unfolding a story far greater than her prayers. Blessed are you among women… That salutation is an understatement.
Her virginity. If Jesus were to be born in America or the Philippines today, God would probably have a hard time looking for a godly virgin woman that had the character of Mary. Her humble submission to the divine plan even if ruined her social life spoke volumes about her spiritual tenacity and faith. How often can you find virgins today who are more concerned about the will of God than in being hot?
Joseph’s plan for silent divorce. As much as he liked Mary, her being pregnant was something inconsistent with his faith. Here is the dilemma most young people today will find very difficult to understand: why would religion be a huge factor in a person’s love life? To answer this, we must back up a little and recall the thundering voice of God against immorality in the Old Testament. Any God fearing Jew knows that his religion is not just for show. It transcends his entire life, even into the secret parts of his bedroom.
Joseph wasn’t being cocky about his religious convictions. He was just trying to be faithful to God even if it broke his heart to divorce his betrothed. He was doing her a favor. He didn’t want her to be put in the spotlight. He was trying to save her from getting stoned to death. Joseph was indeed a righteous man.
As he considered these things, an angel appeared to him, bringing a new revelation from God to end the ordeal he was going through. Notice the seamless connection of the scene: Joseph was thinking hard, an angel spoke to him and he woke up. Doesn’t that mean that he fell asleep while thinking things over? Yes it does.
Most of the time, light is turned on when we take time to consider our difficult situations. The problem for most people today is that when they are faced with difficult situations, they hardly take time to consider the issues deeply. Instead, they do everything they can to inject anesthesia to the part that hurts, to numb their feelings and make the pain dull. This partly explains our proclivity for drinking and escapist entertainment.
Two things happen when people do this: first, they disable themselves from thinking clearly and creatively; and second, they close down the channel by which God could communicate His intended purpose for the temporary pain. Hence, the pain and the difficult situation is prolonged unnecessarily.
The appearance of an angel brought relief to the darkness in Joseph’s heart. Now he knew. Now he understood. Everything made sense again. Do you think that relief would have come if Joseph sought refuge and comfort in the nearest tavern or in the arms of a new girlfriend? Nope, surely not.
It wasn’t mentioned in the Bible but anyone who reads closely could imagine the sudden release of the tangles that tested the love story of Joseph and Mary. For months since the conception, Mary must have agonized over the possibility of losing her bethrothed husband. How would he react? Is this part of the divine plan? What if he wouldn’t believe it was God’s handiwork? Will she be stoned to death?
For Joseph, the ordeal was just as hard. Come on, no one gets pregnant without having sexual contact with a man! You think I’m a fool? While he was probably weighing the possibility that Mary was not lying about the miraculous pregnancy, it was still too much to swallow.
And while all these drama were unfolding, the hand of God was at work, giving Mary the grace to hang on a little longer, and giving Joseph the same dose of grace to think and rethink a hundred times over. It is a wonder that the relationship of this two young people survived this far. It’s a wonder they didn’t snap at the pressure of it all. It is a wonder that Joseph still had the time and patience and faith to think straight and wait on God’s intervention.
Here we see in full view the spiritual, moral and character strength of the young couple. Had this situation happened to lesser mortals, it would probably have played out differently.
Two things to think over: first, God equips those He use with an abundance of grace so they would endure when the hard times come; and second, He must have sharpened their character first before He put them through this situation. Their noble choices despite the difficult situation show that this is not the first time they went through character defining moments.
Last point to consider before wrapping up this meditation: all these things happened while they were doing their normal business of work, community and courtship. For Joseph and Mary, the will of God and the plan of the ages happened in the normal course of their daily lives. Nothing fancy there. Just a seamless integration of the holy and the usual, of heaven and earth, of time and eternity, of Old and New Testaments.
Who would have thought that the night after Joseph gave Mary a bouquet of flowers was the night when the plan of the redemption of all humanity came in full blast to the sleepy town of Bethlehem? Who would have thought that after Mary said her evening prayers, that was the exact time the prophets of the Old Testament have been prophesying hundreds of years ago? Who would have thought that these two young lovers were going to straddle the division of the reckoning of years that we now know as AD and BC?
God, in His wisdom and providence, set all these intricate details of His plan while the two mortals went about the normalcy of their lives. If we could grasp this simple truth, then we would have no trouble believing at the involvement of God in the intricacies of the designs of our lives. We would have no trouble believing that even when we don’t kow it and even when we don’t see it, God is working out His plans and pulling all the strings in the high heavens to make things happen for us for the glory of His name and the fulfillment of His grand plans.