Photo by Batang Latagaw on Unsplash
If Joseph and Mary were millennials, they may have told God “Why me?”
But why not? What did God see in Joseph and Mary that He chose them for a unique place in history: bringing the Incarnate Son into the world? This is no idle question, because if we apply the answers to our own marriages, God can also use us for His purposes.
We have heard the Nativity story so many times, we tend to forget the social context. True, Joseph and Mary were pledged to get married. But in their culture, this was much more binding than modern engagements. They were as good as married, although they were not to have sexual relations yet. To break the engagement, the husband had to file a divorce. If the fiancée were found to be pregnant before the consummation, she can be charged with adultery. We are not talking of child custody or even jail time. We are talking of death by stoning, although the husband can quietly file for divorce. In fact, Joseph was considering the latter.
With this in mind, imagine the moment when Mary comes up to Joseph and tells him, “Guess what, honey, I’m pregnant! And not just that. I’m pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Oh how I wish I could see Joseph’s reaction. We may be assuming that he took it nonchalantly, “Really? Awesome!” No, I suspect it was far more dramatic:
“Who are you kidding? Who’s the real father?!”
“Have you gone mad?”
“Do you realize how bad this looks for us?”
This is why Joseph’s and Mary’s responses were remarkable. When the angel Gabriel broke the news to Mary, her reply was one of utter submission, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” When an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid of taking Mary as his wife, he abandoned his plan to divorce her.
Think of how much such obedience must have cost them. The awkward explanations. The buzzing gossip. The stinging scandal. Mary must have endured veiled accusations that she did not keep herself chaste for Joseph. Joseph must have come close to fistfights in defending Mary’s honor.
You get the point. Theirs was an ordinary, humdrum life. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl get married, raise kids, pay off the mortgage and so on. Then God enters the picture and disrupts the whole thing.
Similarly, what are the disruptions in your married life? What are the events or people that spoil your well-laid plans of wedded bliss? More to the point, what is God doing in your life or through your life that spell inconvenience at best or struggle at worst?
It helps to start with a God-fearing character. Joseph was described as a righteous man, which explains his faith and obedience when lesser husbands would have bailed out. I am touched that Joseph really loved Mary so much that, in contemplating a hush-hush divorce, he wanted to spare her of the humiliation.
Both Joseph and Mary also showed their devotion to God by observing the Law. Part of this was to present Jesus in the temple and offer a sacrifice. That their sacrifice was a dove revealed they were poor, otherwise they would have offered a lamb or a goat.
This is of immeasurable comfort to us. God does not see the depth of our pockets. He uses people who love and serve Him, whether they are struggling to make ends meet or have enough surplus for several lifetimes over. Never think that you and your spouse need a certain measure of wealth, power or influence to be “used by God.”
Joseph’s and Mary’s role did not stop at the Nativity. Remember they had to raise Jesus, so their character was crucial to create a home environment where our Lord can “grow in stature and wisdom, in favor with God and man.” To use a pop culture analogy, can you imagine who Superman would have become if he were raised by Bonnie and Clyde, rather than the morally upright Jonathan and Martha Kent?
Lastly, Joseph and Mary listened to the voice of God. While nowadays it may be unlikely God will speak to us through angels or dreams, we have the Scriptures today. God still speaks to people like you and me, if we will have the ears to listen. Thus, for our marriage to be all what God pleases to use, we have to regularly study the Word and obey it, even though it will not be easy. This is particularly true when divine disruptions happen in our relationships.
Therefore fear God, listen to Him and obey regardless of the cost. When we commit our marriage along this path, God can use us to bring Christ into our worlds.
Who me? Why not?
Have a blessed Yuletide season!
Nelson T. Dy is an author and speaker on career, relationships and spirituality issues. He has written ten books to date, including How to Mend a Broken Heart, The Honeymoon Never Ends, and How Do I Know “The One”? For more of his insights, visit his website www.nelsontdy.com.
He and his wife, the wonderful Lucy Cheng Dy, have been married for 15 years.