This was definitely no ordinary day—in fact, what was going on was as far from ordinary as could be imagined.
Joseph, a descendant of King David, was betrothed to Miryam (Mary), and presumably was expecting life would follow the usual pathway. They would soon celebrate their marriage and eventually they would have children. Life would continue for them in their village as it had for their parents and grandparents. But—and this was a pretty big but in those days—Miryam was found to be pregnant. Joseph knew that the baby wasn’t his. Suddenly, all their plans and hopes were turned to confusion and we can only imagine what Joseph was going through.
We do know that he was feeling torn. He was faithful to the law, which demanded an unfaithful woman be put to death (see Deuteronomy 22:23-24), and yet he did not want Miryam to be publicly disgraced (see Matthew 1:19)—and presumably he did not want her to be put to death. For him, doing the right thing meant divorcing her quietly—not a great option for either of them.
As unusual and disturbing as this must have been for Joseph, this was only the beginning! Perhaps, having made up his mind, he slept soundly that night. Or perhaps, still feeling torn and disturbed by his fiancée’s unexpected pregnancy, he lay awake or slept restlessly.
Certainly, his sleep that night was dramatically interrupted, because an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. This angel told Joseph to not be afraid of taking Miryam home as his wife; to not fear public opinion or controversy; to not fear that Miryam had been unfaithful; to not fear what the future may hold for them. The angel assured him that Miryam’s baby was of God and was in fulfilment of God’s promise given so long ago.
It seemed that God not only had faith that Miryam would respond with faithful acceptance (“May it be to me as you have said”), he obviously trusted that Joseph, too, would respond to the extraordinary with faithful acceptance.
So little is revealed in the Gospels about Joseph—yet perhaps we know all we need to know about him. He knew enough of God and God’s promises that he could trust the message of the angel that God was indeed at work.
Joseph would have been familiar with the centuries-old promise of a Messiah. He would have been hoping, along with the rest of his fellow Israelites, that one day soon this promise would be fulfilled. He would have sung the songs and recited the Scriptures about the Anointed One who would come, about a virgin giving birth, about a light in the darkness, and a child who would be born to become Wonderful Counsellor and Prince of Peace.
In a small country occupied by the powerful Roman Empire, Joseph would have hoped and trusted, as so many others hoped, that this promise was real and that he would get to experience it.
But it appears that he did not expect he would be part of that fulfilment, nor that the woman he was engaged to would be the virgin in the ancient prophecy (see Isaiah 7:14).
Who would have thought that his deepest hopes, the very hopes of the nation, would be fulfilled, not only in his lifetime but in his life, in his marriage, through his wife? Who could have guessed that he, Joseph, a carpenter, would get to bring up the Promised One, to hold him and nurture him, provide for him and teach him?
Did Joseph ever wonder why God chose him and Miryam? Did he ever fear that he might not be up to the task? All that Scripture tells us is that he did what the angel in the dream told him to do. He took his pregnant fiancée home with him to be his wife. We also know that he continued to be obedient to heavenly messages received through his dreams, that he protected his child and wife from harm and that he remained faithful to the task God had ordained for him.
Through Joseph’s quiet faithfulness and acceptance of the extraordinary, we see God’s promise fulfilled through a seemingly ordinary couple—ordinary, yet extraordinary in their willingness to be part of God’s plan and to embrace what God asked of them, no matter what the cost may be.
In this Advent season, may you, too, embrace the extraordinary, may you be open to how God wants to work through you to bring hope and healing to the world, and may you see ancient promises and new life coming together in a miraculous way.
Reprinted from others magazine (Australia Territory).