23rd December – Matthew 1:18-25
Society’s judgement is harsh upon women who mess up and scornful of men who stand by them.
“Loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable, one false step involves her in endless ruin,” – Mary Bennett, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Imagine the popular tabloid headlines of the day: “Alleged virgin migrant, 13, births bouncing baby in byre”. “Cuckold husband brings up baby as his own”
More painful still would have been the whispers, gossip and rumours surrounding the pregnancy and subsequent birth of Joseph and Mary’s firstborn. Earlier in Matthew 1 we discover many key women in Jesus lineage have murky pasts involving prostitution, adultery and incest, not all the women are even Israelites placing them outside the cosy circle of God’s chosen people. Yet this is the earthly family our God and Saviour chooses with an unmarried teenage mother at its head.
We don’t know how Mary broke the news of her pregnancy to Joseph, the words she had to find to explain the inexplicable nor even his immediate response. Very little is known about Joseph despite the courage he demonstrates here. The Voice translation describes him as, “kind, upstanding and honourable”. He suspects Mary has cheated on him, humiliated, he doesn’t want to disgrace her publicly, preferring to quietly divorce her. Clearly a man of sober judgement, integrity and reflection.
Enter the messenger, the same angel who gave Mary her astounding news. Gabriel doesn’t mince his words to Joseph, but speaks into his secret fears and his heart.
“Do not be afraid to wed Mary, she did not sneak off and sleep with someone else…” – The Voice.
Joseph chose to believe Mary, shielding her from idle gossip and rumour even though it was costly, exposing him to ridicule and spite in return. We often question, “What if Mary had said “no”?” we rarely ask the same of Joseph.
Heavenly Father please help us to
Have the courage of Joseph without counting the cost, Recognise your call upon our lives, Tell you our secret fears and dreams, Give thanks for and trust in your perfect plan for us, Now and evermore,