Life Unscripted- Joseph’s Story

Will Crawford —  December 9, 2011

We often don’t think too much about Joseph’s role in the Christmas story but he had a huge part to play. Joseph, was most likely, a young man possibly in his late teens which would have been the expected time for a young man to marry.  Joseph was already pledged to be married to Mary.  For Jewish people at this time, a pledge was a serious commitment and normally took place up to a year before the actual wedding ceremony.  Scholars tell us that this period before marriage was known as a betrothal.  The Betrothal or pledge was a “formal prenuptial agreement before witnesses” and a legally binding contract.  At this moment gifts such as the dowry and bride price were exchanged.  The only way for this pledge to be broken after this point was through divorce.  And the couple, while still require to abstain from sexual intercourse, could be known as husband and wife.

Now Joseph finds out Mary is expecting and as most would assume, it must be that she had been unfaithful.  The law required that he divorce her for unfaithfulness and so in obedience, he set out to do just that.  And here we gain a glimpse of Joseph’s heart.  To simply divorce Mary would subject her to intense ridicule especially for adultery.  We can only imagine the pain he must have been feeling at what must have felt like a complete betrayal! Yet with compassion he makes a decision to do what he needs to do but to do it in a way that preserves Mary’s integrity.  It is at this point that God sends an angel in a dream and tells Joseph to take Mary as his wife.  It is revealed to him the child she is carrying is from the Holy Spirit and not another man.  And when Joseph wakes up he does what God has asked.

Think about what Joseph has just agreed to.  He has agreed to enter into the most unusual of situations.  This certainly was not the plan Joseph had written out in his heart and mind. Now he will have to deal with the ridicule of those who won’t believe him and are likely to think he was promiscuous before marriage (a huge deal back in this day and age). Joseph signs on to one of the most amazing and unscripted journeys anyone can imagine, and agrees to be the adoptive earthly father to God’s Son.   

When we see this story we often miss the day to day difficulty it must have been to sign on to being the primary care givers to the Son of God.  What did that term ‘Son of God’ even mean? What would the future with him look like? What would it mean for them to raise such a child?  How would they accomplish such a task?

But let me be clear here, this was no mistake!  God, the Father, knew exactly what he was doing.  Joseph and Mary were chosen by him to perform what would be one of the greatest tasks ever given to human hands to perform; to raise, nurture and protect God’s son Jesus, the Savior of the World.  God’s was involved and his hand was guiding this process all along the way. And while God knew exactly what he was doing, for Joseph and Mary, their lives had become completely unscripted.  They had agreed to be used by God Almighty. All they knew was that God was in control and that He had asked them to join him in a divinely orchestrated plan.  One that they may not have understood and one that meant significant pain for them, but one that would eventually change the course of the world bringing about the possibility for the forgiveness of all sin and wrong doing and opening the way to a personal relationship with God.

What’s the ‘take away’ for us? Well it is certainly more than a warm and fuzzy story to be brought out and enjoyed each Christmas. God’s plans are unscripted to us! This journey, in relationship with Him, demands trust in God because we just don’t know what it holds. But you can be sure of this: God chooses to do His work through ordinary people, with all their faults and potential for failure. And those who desire to be used by Him do so by placing their trust and faith in His plans which often feel uncertain. But for those who will trust Him, God will do great things in a life committed to Him. And because often His plans include uncertainly and even difficulty and pain remember: God never wastes a life given to Him. He always uses it for His glory; Always– no matter how it might feel or seem different. Will you trust God to use you for His purposes even when you don’t understand the script He is writing for your life?