Daily Reading & Prayer
Matthew 1:18-20 “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’”
Surprisingly, Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, once grappled with the notion of divorcing Mary during their engagement. In those times, engagements couldn't simply dissolve; they required a formal divorce. The binding nature of their engagement stretched over a year, making Joseph's dilemma weighty and seemingly justified. Mary was pregnant, and he wasn't the father. Faced with a critical decision, Joseph wrestled with the prospect of either casting shame upon Mary and the unborn child or embracing a marriage, knowing the child wouldn't be biologically his. Law and culture dictated his options. Within the inflexible framework of Jewish society, lineage held immense significance, and the looming judgment of the village weighed heavily. He anticipated the gossip and scrutiny that would cloud his family's name.
However, an angel altered the trajectory of events by announcing Jesus' impending birth. The celestial messenger not only disclosed the miraculous nature of the child but also revealed the chosen name— "Jesus," meaning "Yahweh saves."
Despite the societal stigma, Joseph obediently followed the angel's directive to marry Mary. Yet, one can imagine the shadow of shame lingering over this little family. It's compelling that the Savior of the world entered existence beneath a cloud of scandal. God could have chosen a different plan, yet this path was selected—perhaps because this infant would one day bear the weight of the world's shame. He would ultimately carry our sins to the cross.
It becomes apparent that the interaction between a holy God and sinful people could be a little "scandalous." The world, deserving of judgment and death, is offered salvation. People, unworthy and burdened with sin, deserve public disgrace and separation from God. Yet, God's overwhelming love for us compels Him to seek us despite our flaws. It's a heavenly scandal—the union of a holy God with a flawed humanity.
As we journey through Advent, reflecting on Joseph's situation invites us to examine our lives for moments when we are called to make tough, counter-cultural decisions. You might face pressure at work to conform to practices that don't align with your values and beliefs. Think of Joseph's bravery in following his faith against societal norms. Stand firm in your principles, showing that integrity and obedience matter more than popularity or gain.
In personal relationships, you might encounter situations that defy conventional expectations. It could be extending forgiveness to someone who hasn't asked for it or offering support to a friend who has made questionable choices. Here, the heart of Joseph's decision to protect and love Mary despite judgment becomes an example of how we, too, can extend grace, show love, and be the person God created us to be.
During this season, let Joseph's story encourage you to embrace faith-guided actions, transforming everyday challenges into opportunities for grace and growth.
Dear God, grant us the strength to embrace obedience, knowing that your plans are higher than ours. Teach us to extend grace to others, just as Joseph did for Mary. In moments of shame or judgment, may we be bearers of your love and compassion. In Jesus' name. Amen.