Just this morning, he heard something terrible. Life changing. Sickening. The path that he had focused so steadily on for so long, was now shattered. The future that he envisioned dissolved right in front of his face. The hours and months he had given to build an honorable life with an honorable girl, now were wasted minutes that he would never get back. Even now, several hours after the news had taken root in his visions of tomorrow, he didn’t have a plan.
Yet, there was nothing that he would’ve done differently. Suddenly and without reason, everything in his quiet, well-ordered life had turned wrong. Daily he spent time in prayer, but maybe not enough prayer. Weekly he offered the right sacrifices, but maybe not the best sacrifices. Often he gave thanks and praise to the God of his fathers for everything he had, but maybe there was still more to do. Recalling his life, his choices, his intentions, he didn’t see what he could have changed. After so much attention to faithful living, how did he end up here?
He was angry. But he wouldn’t come to the conclusion to hurt the one he loved. He was floundering for an explanation, someone to blame, a scapegoat for his sorrow, but he wouldn’t dishonor a lady. He felt betrayed and bitter, but finally he resolved to say nothing.
Through choked down tears, he would look ahead with focused eyes. From under the suffocating weight of embarrassment and shame, he would take a deep breath to move forward with integrity. Now late in the night, he pieced together the only plan that made sense.
And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (Mat 1:19)
Mary had discovered she was pregnant. But Joseph was not the father. He knew that as clear as day. So, there was only one logical explanation for this situation. Mary slept with another man. But she denied it all and said strange things about the spirits and angels. She cried. He was infuriated. She lied. He was heartbroken. Why did such a horrible thing have to happen to such a patient, loyal man?
Dark. Quiet. Night. The uneasy slumber of unrealized dreams. Sick. Tired. Sad. Resting under tension while waiting and dreading the morning light. Tomorrow he would tell her. Tomorrow he would release her from his happily-ever-after story.
Awakening to a violent light, Joseph was forced to hear a new ending. An angel of the Lord appeared to him and extended this alien word of God to his disciplined and ordinary world. This strange and ridiculous word offended everything that he had planned. This unexpected proclamation humbled everything he had resolved to do. His well-meaning, upstanding decisions would not protect his tomorrow from shame, nor could his good intentions protect Mary from the public humiliation she also would endure.
But the word promised something they had never expected. God with us. God coming to grow in the womb of an unwed girl. God coming to breathe the same stale air as his terrified and inexperienced parents. God coming to bear all the shame and anger of a young boy and his bride-to-be.
It’s not the prayer that Joseph wanted to pray. It’s not the conversation he planned to have with Mary. It’s not the emotion that he felt in his heart. He trusted, rather, the word that came from God.
Come, Lord Jesus.