I am struck every year by part Joseph plays in the Christmas story. His initial reaction to the discovery that his future wife is pregnant is surprising enough--most young men I know would hardly decide to handle it quietly! I wonder how his quiet handling of the matter would have appeared if word got out in Jewish society--if that was considered the reaction of a guilty party who didn't want to admit his guilt by fulfilling the betrothal. Surely Joseph was going to be unable to "save face" by sweeping the matter under the rug. Since we, the readers, know the truth, his decision speaks volumes about his character, his tenderness toward God, and perhaps about his feelings for Mary.
But what comes next is astonishing. In a dream he is told to take Mary as his wife, and HE DOES IT!!! As I ponder this for a moment, I'm humbled. You see, my tendency with dreams is to laugh them off as odd and go on with my day. To marry a woman already pregnant, especially when he had dealt quietly with the whole affair was as good as admitting that HE was the father of the child. I cannot imagine how they would have been treated in Nazareth after this juicy bit of gossip circulated. Did Joseph's business suffer? Were they looked down upon when they went to worship? Did they worry about the neighbors treating the child--the Messiah--as inferior because of his family's dirty little secret? I wonder if they were as puzzled by this plan as I am. Yet the scriptures indicate that Joseph's obedience was immediate, and Mary and her baby found a protector. What a guy!
Such a man seems super-human, and it almost makes the story unbelievable. I admit, I have known a few men who I think of as being of that quality of character, but it still seems outrageous to imagine the cultural impact of Joseph's obedience. It was a one in a zillion pick, which of course God knew.
Then I realized tonight that in his choice of a father for Jesus, God modeled His own divine Fatherhood of His beloved children, for the very reason Jesus was coming into the world was so that God Himself could associate with sinful, willful, rebellious children who had "played the whore" and turned their backs on Him many times. While Mary's guilt was only that of appearance, and Joseph's one of association, my guilt was real. The sins I have committed against my most holy, glorious God are real, as are the consequences of that guilt that I carried. And yet, He chose to come into the world to suffer guilt by association. Throughout His life, Jesus embraced the weak, the immoral, the rejected, the imperfect, and I'm so glad He did, because it makes it easier to believe that He could love me.
It kind of hurts to think of the number of times I'm afraid to associate myself with him--afraid of the cultural impact of admitting boldly that I'm a Christian. I don't mind whispering it to those who are closest to me. I don't mind bringing it out to show when someone is in a tough spot and doesn't know where else to go. But often I fight the urge (and even give in) when associating with Christ will make me look guilty, crazy, or even just weird. So today, for Jesus birthday, I'm going to shout it! Jesus is my beloved!!! He loved me when no one could! He loved me even when He saw the things in me I hope most people never see!! He has faithfully loved me and cared for me and pursued me in my most faithless moments!
Christmas is Jesus birthday, and this year, I want to celebrate it, because He is my most beloved!