Saturday, December 24, 2011

Stuck Between a Cradle and a Cross

Being in another's shoes is something we don't do well. Let's jump into Joseph, Mary's husband's, shoes.

Often, in those days and in that culture marriages were arranged. So, as a young Jewish man of maybe 15, 16 ,17 Joseph and Mary are betrothed. This was kind of like an engagement in the sense that the couple agreed to be married, but today engagements can be easily broken and back in Joseph's day betrothal was not something you just jumped in and out of.

So, Joseph and Mary are going to be married and there is a lot of planning to do. Imagine thinking about where you were going to live then, how many sheep and oxen you would need to provide for a family, was your wife a good cook, how close was water to the new homestead and many of the same kinds of things that a young man today would be thinking about.

Then, somewhere in the middle of this process, Mary comes to Joseph and tells him she is pregnant- oh, and by the way, "I'm still a virgin". Being a virgin in those days was a big deal, like it should be today. Deut. 22 says that if you found out that your new wife was not a virgin the punishment for her was stoning. That's kind of a big deal. Mary had to tell Joseph and Joseph had to do the right thing. If Joseph would have followed the protocol of the day... But Joseph was a righteous man.

The Bible doesn't tell us how long it was between Mary telling Joseph and Joseph's dream, but for Joseph it must have seemed like an eternity.

Because God does things perfectly, Joseph was probably thinking that Mary was definitely "the one" and now all this. This would have been a lot for them to work through as young people. I'm sure there were many tears and maybe some anger and confusion as well. Again, put yourself in young Joseph's shoes.

But Joseph was a "just man" and didn't want to shame his wife and so he was resolved to "un-betroth" her quietly. This must have meant moving away because how could he undo the betrothal without any of his family and friends knowing it? They already had plans made and of course there was a big celebration at the start, so all the people connected to them would have been ready for a huge wedding party that now wasn't going to happen. This was a big commitment on his part, but he was a good guy.

Somewhere in between "I'm pregnant, but I'm still a virgin" and the due date Joseph has a dream and in the dream an angel tells him that everything that Mary has told him is indeed true and that he is going to be the adoptive father of the long awaited Messiah. Ok, now put those shoes on for a moment.

As an adoptive parent myself there are some challenges that go with that; some baggage, a lot of unknowns. Oh, but this was different- the son coming to live in his house was going to be perfect and a king. "Whoa- I'm a carpenter and you are telling me that a king is coming to live in my house?" All that had to be very challenging to comprehend for someone who was probably not yet in his 20's and not from wealthy means. When he went to bed he was trying to wrestle with how to "do the right thing" and start all over again with a relationship and now a future king was coming to live in his house, that he hadn't yet built.

You get the idea- sometimes we read over 7 verses in Matthew 1 and forget to really look at them and all that might be connected to them. This Christmas season think about young men you know, like John, our adopted son, being in this position, or maybe Joseph was as old as Garrett; how would that be for them? Think about what must have been going through Joseph's mind when he heard from the angel that his soon to be wife would be the mother of the Messiah and that this boy King would live under his roof. I would be saying "I'm not ready for that". But Immanuel came to live with them and they called Him Jesus and He did save us from our sins. Are you ready for whatever God might ask you to do? Hopefully we understand that there is nothing we can do in our own strength but if we are believers we are not in our own strength.

I'm glad Joseph was obedient and took on a huge role for a young man- Adopting The Messiah.

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