Gracious JosephGreg Hill
The Advent season is a time of anticipation, waiting, and preparation. During this next week before Christmas, Time With God will break from our study of Matthew to explore select passages related to concepts and characters connected with Advent. Please note that there will be no Digging Deeper section.
We can’t fully comprehend what Joseph went through during that first Christmas season. So, after reading the Scripture today, let’s envision it in modern terms—and with a bit of artistic license.
Read the Word
Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Respond to God
Imagine living in a very small town. All the kids go to the same school, everybody goes to the same church, and everyone pretty much votes the same way. It’s a conservative place. You’re engaged to marry a young girl that everybody knows, and she has a stellar reputation. She’s as pretty on the inside as on the outside, a godly young woman, and the local church’s homecoming queen. Your upcoming wedding is the talk of the town; it’s the social event that everybody is looking forward to. Your courtship and your engagement have been textbook when it comes to how you’ve treated your fiancé with nobility, dignity, and purity.
One night, as the wedding is approaching, you bring this amazing girl to her front door after a date. She says to you, “Joseph, I’m pregnant.” You wince because good girls don’t even joke about stuff like that. But by the look on her face, you know that she’s not kidding. Quickly, that knot in your stomach turns into boiling anger. You know you are not the father. You have never touched this girl—never even kissed her! But obviously somebody has, and you feel deceived, betrayed, and made a fool of.
Shifting from our modern-day imagining of Joseph, notice what verse 19 says about him: “And her husband [to be] Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”
Shortly after the most devastating betrayal of this man’s life, Joseph tried to figure out a way not to crush Mary, but to spare her reputation. How did Joseph go from betrayal and rage to incredible graciousness? There was something inside Joseph that kept him from going in that direction. Joseph had walked with God to such a degree that there was a growing personal graciousness within him that was extended to others even in the toughest of circumstances.
This Christmas season as you gather with family, chances are you’re going to be in the same room with people that have hurt you in some way. Stuff happens—even in good families. The truth is, we can act on sinful impulses that make us want to inflict damage and hurt people who have wronged us. We can be sarcastic, snide, vengeful, and hurtful. Or we can follow the lead of Joseph and encounter people with the graciousness we have received from God.