Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph but before the wedding, she was found to be pregnant. Being a righteous man, Joseph was revolted by his betrothed’s blatant philandering. He threw her into the village square to have her stoned in accordance with Dt 22:23-24.  But an angel physically restrained him and said, “This baby in her is conceived of God.”  Joseph rebuked the angel as demonic as there had never been a case of a virgin birth in Scripture and God only acts in accordance with His Word.  But the angel convinced him that his interpretation of virgin in Isa 7:14 was wrong.  So Joseph begrudgingly took Mary as his wife but made sure everyone knew that her pregnancy was nothing to do with him so that his upright standing would not be tainted.  However, since he didn’t reject Mary people knew he must secretly support Mary’s infidelity.

Joseph also resented having to raise someone else’s baby as his own and not being able to have sex with his wife until after she gave birth.  When the baby was born, they named him Jesus as he would save them from the Romans so that Israel would become great again.
Not the Bible: The ungospel of Matthew 1:18-25

The Christmas story has been transformed beyond all recognition into a saccharine sweet harmless tale suitable only for kids.  It would be easy to think that there is nothing harmful about this but actually what it does is rob us of the rich grace that is available.

You just about to be married and you discover you fiancé is pregnant and not by you.  She makes up some story about it being God’s.  How would you react?  We have the advantage of retrospect we know how it turns out.  But how many times have you been in a place and you don’t know how it would work out?  Is it easy to trust?

This has never ever happened before – there’s no precedent.  The passage in Isaiah was a prophetic word to King Ahaz about God achieving something he thought impossible.  The virgin clearly wasn’t referring to Mary but probably a young girl in the court who would get married and having a child.  It’s only now that we see it had a secondary meaning – an echo.  So what was Joseph to think?  She’s lying – maybe to cover up being raped by Roman soldiers.  He knows that it’s wrong – he could have had her exposed to public humiliation or stoned.  But he decides to do it quietly so to at least save her that.  Despite his broken heart, his love for her still sought

However, when he responded to God’s messenger and married her anyway – he bore the shame.  People would think that they had sex outside of marriage.  Nowadays we barely blink but then that would have been a real stigma.  They would have been rejected by their community.  He would have lost work as a consequence.  Their marriage wouldn’t have been a celebration of their union with the whole town but a quiet uncomfortable affair.  Joseph took Mary’s shame as his own and that would have cost him greatly.  He became the adoptive father of the One who would take the world’s shame as his own which cost him the most agonizing death devised by man.

Can you see the power of this story?  The sacrifice of obedience.

God is not calling us to a perfect life where everything is Christmassy but to a life of tough choices where our obedience will release the resources of heaven to bring hope and freedom to others.

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