I find myself wondering what it must have been like to be Joseph (Jesus’ step father). There are lots of books and bible teachings about Christmas. Most of them have to do with Jesus himself and rightfully so. Then you have some teaching where Mary (Jesus’ mom) is highlighted. But I don’t know of many books or bible teachings where Joseph was the center of the teaching. And so as Christmas day is just 3 days away, I want to look at Christmas from the eyes of men. And today it is all about Joseph, the man, the father and the husband.
I’ll set the scene now; Joseph’s heart was full of anticipation over his recent engagement to Mary. He had to be daydreaming and thinking about what his life would be like, and he was, no doubt, optimistic about his future. Little did he know that God had other plans and that the first Christmas would get in his way.
The bible does not tell us how Joseph came to notice MARY’S condition. Did she tell him from the start? Did she begin to show and have to explain it to him? Did he even give her a chance to explain? And, suppose he did. How in the world was he going to believe something as far fetched as the actual truth?
“An angel appeared to you?” Joseph may have asked, “Angels do that all the time, don’t they?” He would have been sarcastic about it, “Come on, Mary. You’ve driven a knife through my heart. Don’t add insult to injury by lying to me!”
Hind sight is 20/20 they say and so you and I both know that Mary was telling the truth. Nevertheless, I can only imagine how bad Mary felt when her husband-to-be didn’t believe her and now didn’t trust her. But, I don’t want to focus on Mary since this is written for men and about men, let’s look at all of this from Joseph’s point of view. Can you imagine how crushed he felt that Mary would betray him this way (At least he thought she did, what other logical explanation is there)? If you put yourself in his shoes, this had to be a huge disappointment! Once Joseph thought Mary was unfaithful, it must have given him the unwelcome effect of leaving him feeling inadequate. This is what must have been going through his mind: “Wasn’t my love enough for her? I guess not, and what does that say about me”? He may also have lost the ability to trust not only Mary but anyone, at least for a time. He might have asked himself, How can I ever love again? How can I possibly risk another broken heart?
Whatever Joseph was feeling – and we don’t know, do we? Because the text doesn’t tell us – but whatever it was, we know that he was a righteous man. Even though, in his mind, he had been dealt this dreadful blow, even though the foundations of his world had been shaken, even though he had been hurt and hurt deeply, he didn’t seek to retaliate. Mary had wounded him; he wouldn’t do the same to her.
In fact, Matthew tells us that he “was unwilling to expose her to public disgrace.” So, he “planned to dismiss her quietly.” It was a noble thing. Back in those days, an engagement was as binding as a marriage, and he would have been within his rights to drag Mary through an ugly and mean-spirited divorce. He could have ruined her for life. But he didn’t. Instead, he was willing to make it easy on her, as easy as he could make it.
I’m guessing that he may have had trouble going to sleep at night. You know how it is when your mind is spinning and you can’t quit thinking about how you got where you are and what you’re going to do now. Joseph’s life had been interrupted – which, I suppose, is an understatement. This isn’t how he had planned things to go at all. He had always been careful. He was known for his sound judgment. How could he have gone so wrong? With these thoughts churning in his brain, he finally drifted off to sleep.
But even his sleep was interrupted. He was awakened by a dream. Nothing unusual about that, but this was an unusual dream. No “visions of sugarplums” dancing in his head! His vision was of something much more frightening: he saw an angel, and the angel called him by name. Joseph, he said, do not be afraid. Joseph, your fears are unfounded. The baby that Mary is carrying is from the Holy Spirit.
Now, think about that. Not only had Joseph’s life been interrupted and not only had his sleep been interrupted, but now his apprehensions had been interrupted as well. His disappointment – interrupted. His suspicions – interrupted. His discouragement – interrupted. His shame – interrupted.
That’s what the message of Christmas does. It interrupts the pain of living – no matter how intense it may be – and it tells you that there is ultimately no reason to be afraid.
Why not? Because the baby in Mary’s womb is Emmanuel, God with us. He is God’s affidavit in the flesh that you will never have to face any difficulty alone. God will be with you.
Over and over in the Scriptures, God assures us of this. In Isaiah 43, he says to you, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” I will be with you, he says. I will be with you.
That’s Isaiah forty-three, in which God speaks to us. In Psalm twenty-three we speak to him, and what is it that we say? “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Why? Because there’s no evil to fear? Not on your life. In the valley of the shadow of death? There’s evil all around. Isn’t there? The reason we do not fear it is…what? What do we say? “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
God is with us, and that changes the landscape of any disruption. What is it that this Christmas brings to mind that you had rather not think about? Perhaps it is a loss that you have endured over the past year. Or a setback of some kind. A financial reversal. A scary diagnosis. A broken heart. A lost love. A shameful memory. Some sin that has overtaken you.
Christmas interrupts the unraveling of your life. Your fears, like Joseph’s, are unfounded, and for the same reason: The child in Mary’s womb! You are to name him Jesus, the angel said. Why Jesus? Because of what it means. And what does it mean? It means “the Lord saves.” He saves his people, the angel said. And that means he saves you.
His birth, you see, arrests the disintegration, the demoralizing depreciation of your life that you think you’re helplessly witnessing. The news of Christmas suspends the erosion of your hope and gives you new cause for joy.
Joseph’s sleep had been interrupted by the news of that first Christmas, but we don’t see him rolling over in bed to go back to sleep. No. What do we see? We see him dressing as fast as he could. We see him running, unable to contain his joy – running to Mary to tell her how happy he is now that he knows the truth.
If you think your life as it is now is without hope, you’re believing a lie. The truth is, God is with you. And when God is with you, there’s always hope. Don’t be surprised then if Christmas interrupts the ache within you. It’s been doing that for some two thousand years.
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