This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1: 18 – 21
No matter our age, we still imagine how we want our lives to be in the years to come, don’t we? We make our plans, look forward to them, and work to make them happen. But we’ve learned that life and our situations don’t always turn out the way we had hoped, do they? Often our best made plans get interrupted, or changed completely, and we have to accept and move forward. Sometimes small or big things come along that we could have never anticipated, and we may be left with disappointment and even sadness. And every now or then, something so major occurs that it changes our lives forever.
The Christmas story with Mary and Joseph is certainly an example of how God sometimes has plans for us other than our own. Can we even imagine how this young couple, who were anxious to begin their lives together, must have felt when they learned that their world had been turned upside down! They were betrothed, engaged to be married and how they must have dreamed about their futures as husband and wife and starting a family. But God had something bigger in mind.
Mary had been approached by the angel of God and knew what God was asking of her. But then she had to share the news with Joseph and she must have known how difficult this would be for him to understand and accept. His first thoughts must have been of betrayal and unfaithfulness. What emotions he must have felt – disbelief, sadness, jealousy, frustration, and perhaps even anger. He loved Mary. He thought he knew the young woman she was, but now. . .
In their culture, being betrothed meant that they were already legally married, but not living together. Their relationship had not been consummated and these same arrangements might be in place for a few months or a year. And the only way to break the engagement was to get a divorce.
We can understand why this might have been Joseph’s first reaction, but because of his love for Mary, he had in mind to do it quietly. According to tradition, he could have embarrassed Mary, disgraced her socially as an outcast, or even had her killed, but while he was considering these things, the angel of the Lord came to him in a dream and confirmed Mary’s story. He chose to obey and trust God, and he took her home to be his wife.
What an unimaginable situation for Mary and Joseph. How they must have questioned their circumstances, wondered about God’s plans, and tried to understand what was to come. They must have asked themselves over and over. . . “How can this be? How will the people around us react? Where do we go from here?”
What fear and anxiety over the unknown they must have had. But yet, they were strong in faith and they felt God’s presence as they went forward trusting in Him. And what a difference His plan for Mary and Joseph made in the lives of all of us, and in our world.
God often comes to us in ways we could never imagine. When He disrupts ours plans, He may be trying to accomplish His own, and in the process, He may be giving us opportunities for Christian growth as we learn to trust Him more fully. How grateful we can be for the assurance that He is always with us as we go through uncertain and difficult times – giving us His strength, love, and grace to do His will. For with God, nothing is impossible.
Dear God, how often we don’t understand what you ask of us or why, but help us to lean not on our own understanding, but to trust in your wisdom and grace. Thank you for the gift of your Son, our Savior. Amen