By Ed Schneider
Joseph is righteous. That’s the foundation of this passage.
The word “righteous” was used with great intention by the writer. Being called righteous wasn’t simply synonymous with being some nice guy who had demonstrated good moral clarity. From a biblical perspective it was far more. This term designated people who by their wisdom, stature, and presentation were mature and firm representations of what God calls the obediently faithful to be. Joseph represented the embodiment of godliness.
Joseph, being a just man, was not willing to disgrace both Mary and her family. Humanly speaking, he had every right to be angry and frustrated by the circumstance Mary had presented to him. Mary and her family were under a cultural contract of sorts. She had broken the terms of her engagement and was soon to be exposed. Yet Joseph couldn’t see the value in causing more damage. So what was he supposed to do?
God showed him what to do by opening Joseph’s eyes and heart to a greater understanding of God’s immeasurable grace.
The Scriptures clearly testify that Mary had been intentionally touched by the Divine. God is dramatically declaring that anyone or anything that the Divine touches in any way becomes both blessed and also a profound blessing to others, regardless of what current culture may demand or argue.
Joseph was called to bring Mary completely into his life and to openly celebrate her life, even if it did not fit neatly into the accepted norms of current culture.
Just like Joseph, when God calls, we are to welcome and receive the people who make us uncomfortable or who seem unclean, so that they may experience through us the practical display of God’s love and subsequent empowerment.
Just like Joseph, we are called to move beyond what we already know to fully experience what God has in store.
Prayer: God of grace, give us a fresh understanding of the way your grace operated toward and between Joseph and Mary. Help us live into such immeasurable kindness and patience, even if the culture around us condemns.
Ed Schneider is the Fresh Start pastor of Trinity Community Church in Kent, Washington. The 2016 Advent devotions were written by RCA church planters and parent churches.