The Third Sunday in Advent

Lack of Faith Joseph

Lesson Verse Matthew 1:18-25


Joseph is often the forgotten person in the Christmas story. Yet, he played a very important part. From the beginning, Joseph was the figure in the background yet he had an impact on Mary’s life and on Jesus’. In the birth story, Joseph shows us what an incredibly faithful man he was. He was ready to stand by Mary in unusual circumstances even before the angel came to him in a dream. Joseph had faith even when everything told him to believe otherwise. Joseph cared for Mary during her pregnancy and then for her and the baby, keeping them safe and moving them away from harmful situations. To understand the importance of Joseph to the birth of Jesus, you must look at three aspects of the story:

Key Points

  • Joseph had no legal obligation to Mary
  • Mary would have been stoned if Joseph had denounced her
  • The angel came to Joseph in a dream (He came to Mary when she was awake)

Joseph had no legal obligation to Mary

Joseph was not yet married to Mary. They were only betrothed. As a betrothed woman, Mary was not under the protection of her father or her future husband. She was in limbo, with no one to speak for her, to defend her. Joseph cared for Mary and was considering his different options that would not cause Mary any harm.

Mary would have been stoned if Joseph had denounced her

Under Hebrew Law, Mary would have been stoned to death if it was found she had sex with a man other than Joseph. If Joseph was the father of the child, he would have been compelled to marry her. Joseph knew he was not the father because he had not had sex with Mary yet. He could have walked away and let the law deal with Mary. Instead, he was going to quietly break their engagement and send her to live with relatives in another town so Mary would not be shamed.

The angel came to Joseph in a dream (He came to Mary when she was awake)

I have always been fascinated by the fact the angel appeared to Mary when she was awake but to Joseph in a dream. I believe God wanted Mary to know beyond a doubt that an angel had appeared to her and what his message had been. In Joseph’s case, however, there had to be room for doubt. God need Joseph to decide for himself if he believed the angel and the message was real or only his imagination. Joseph could have awakened, only to decide the dream was just part of his overactive imagination. Instead, when he awoke, Joseph accepted the message as the Word of the Lord. He married Mary and prepared for their life together.

Faith Vs Fear

Joseph had to be concerned about the situation with Mary. He knew she was expecting a child that wasn’t his. He cared for Mary and wanted to handle the situation in a way that did her no harm. Then, an angel appeared to him in a dream.

Scripture says when Joseph woke up, he married Mary. It makes it sound as if he got up the next morning and immediately got married. Perhaps they did however, I believe Joseph needed to think a bit more about all that had happened. It’s easy for us to sit here now and think Joseph should have been ready and willing to marry Mary after the angel appeared in his dream. This was such an unusual situation, though, I can’t help but feel Joseph had to think a bit more. He need some time to process all that he had heard. He may even have needed time to consider whether or not he was prepared to raise the Son of God.

Joseph had to be afraid. This was a tremendous responsibility he was being asked to take on. I can see where he might need some time to think. Whether he needed a few days to mull over all these things or just a few hours, Joseph had enough faith to not only go ahead and marry Mary but also raise the Son of God as his own. What an incredible man!

For Today

Joseph could have walked away from his betrothal to Mary without any recourse. Joseph could have quietly sent Mary away to keep her from harm but she still would have been an unmarried woman with a child. Instead, Joseph married Mary and raised the child as his own.

You may find yourself in situations when it would be easy to walk away. You tell yourself, “it’s not my problem.” or “it’s not my place.” No one would criticize you. After all, why is it your problem?

It may not be your problem and you might have every right not to become involved. Yet, like Joseph, God may be asking you to step up anyway, to take control of a situation in a way only you are able.

Joseph may have had no idea how he ended up in the situation in which he found himself. Yet, stepping up turned out to be the greatest thing Joseph did in his life. You never know the outcome of any situation when God calls you. You may think the situation is one of the worst things that ever happened to you. It may only be years later that you are able to see how God turned it into one of the greatest things you every did!

Are there tasks God has called you to do and you felt it wasn’t your problem? How do you overcome that fear?

What is an area in your life where God is calling you but you hesitate to answer because you think it’s not your responsibility?

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