“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” (Matthew 1:18-19)
Have you ever received an “unwanted” gift? How did you respond? Did you send it back or dash to the gift exchange as quick as possible? Or did you put it away where no one would see it? What do you do with an “unwanted” gift?
Joseph of Nazareth came face to face with a similar problem. He had chosen a young Jewish girl to be his wife. A formal contract was drafted between families and was considered legally binding. Many cultures enforce stiff penalties for breaking the contract. In Jewish tradition, for instance, breaking the contract is considered to be equal to divorce. The betrothal is often referred to as “erusin,” can only be broken via an official divorce decree.
When Mary came to Joseph and said, “I am pregnant,” a huge problem surfaced. I’m sure Joseph did not want a child out of wedlock, so he was faced with an insurmountable problem. What would he do? What could he do? By Jewish law, if Mary were unfaithful and found to be pregnant with child by a man other than her husband she could be taken and stoned to death. When the news came Joseph was stunned, but being a righteous man he decided rather than disgracing her he would dispose of the “unwanted gift” by “sending her away secretly.” (Matthew 1:18) He wanted a “secret” break-up because getting an official divorce decree would set off severe repercussions in the community. They both would be ostracized or perhaps something even worse.
Before Joseph could execute his plan, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20).
Joseph obeyed the message from the Lord and he and Mary were married. The “unwanted gift” now became a “wanted gift.” That which he wanted to cast aside as unworthy turned out to be Jesus, the Savior of the world. Where would we be today if Joseph had disobeyed the voice of the angel and had Mary disposed of secretly?
Aren’t you glad that God saw to it that events turned out the way they did? We received a Savior, and God was glorified. I can’t think of any better gift than that.