Mary and Joseph. The couple who almost weren’t a couple. They planned to marry. But before they officially started their life together, it almost ended. Due to no fault of either of them, their marriage would forever be marked by scandal.
Mary was pregnant with a child who wasn’t Joseph’s.
Imagine Joseph’s fears. The concern. The shame. Knowing he had done no wrong but unable to prove his innocence. Could he trust his bride? Was she being honest?
Imagine Mary’s concerns. Knowing she had done no wrong, but unable to prove her innocence. But who would believe her? Would Joseph trust her? Would her family believe the news the angel spoke? Would Joseph still want to be her husband? Would she be an outcast? But she knew what the angel had told her. And she believed.
It would have been easy for Joseph to win the case in court. Mary was pregnant with someone else’s child. They both knew that. The evidence was stacked against her. What man wouldn’t have dumped her?
But the angel who spoke to Joseph in a dream had a most convincing argument. But how could it be possible that his Mary had been chosen to birth the Son of God? The Promised Messiah was the babe in her virgin womb. How would they sell that story?
Oh sure. Every Jew was taught that they were awaiting the coming of the Messiah. But why Mary? Why now? So Joseph did the unthinkable. He believed the angel. He kept his vow to Mary. He moved forward with the marriage. He would raise her child.
The right decision paved the way for Joseph to raise this child in a safe and stable home. Oh. It wasn’t easy. I’m sure. But Joseph could sleep well at night. He could have peace within. He had trusted the all seeing, all knowing God to an unknown future. He willingly accepted the life God laid out for him and his family.
Even Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, recognized who lay in Mary’s womb. And so did the child in Elizabeth’s once barren womb. Mary didn’t need to be vindicated. But her word and God’s word proved true even before the child was born. And then multiple times after his arrival.
There were the shepherds who heard the news from the angels. The old man, Simeon, stood in the temple and recognized the baby immediately as the Son of God. And Anna, the prophet, also confirmed the 8-day old baby as the Promised Messiah. Later, the bright star that shone in the east led the wise men to seek this child.
These were no coincidence. These incidents were all by the hand of God. He was moving in his chosen people. The long awaited Messiah was now among them. Carried in a virgin womb. Wrapped in swaddling clothes. Delivered in the town of Bethlehem. Born to be the Deliverance of his people.
The proof of Mary’s innocence and virtue were in place, if one was looking.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord . “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
How many times have I almost taken the wrong step, even though the right step was the road less traveled. The wrong step would have been the path of least resistance for Joseph. But the right decision looked foolish in the eyes of his family and neighbors. Who could fault him? How could he explain the situation to those who asked? Mary and Joseph knew they were in for the long haul. But they didn’t really have a clue what life would be like living with the God Child.
In our times of uncertainty, it’s easy to choose the obvious path. Especially when it’s what everyone else would do. But I’m not everyone else. And when God clearly says to take the least popular approach, then the response should be just as clear. I wonder how often I have chosen the easier path instead of the one designed by God. No one else has to know. Right? Except for God. But isn’t that enough to make me pause? God knows everything. He knows his plans for me. He knows when I follow his plans and when I don’t. So who am I fooling?
A life of obedience to God’s will over the ways of the world can be the only choice. It is His perfect plan, even when it doesn’t seem the perfect solution. Even when friends and neighbors offer their unsolicited advice. Turn the other way. They say. Don’t stir up trouble when you don’t have to. Look out for yourself.
But God’s ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His plans are perfect.