Matthew’s Gospel provides us with an opportunity to consider – from Joseph’s perspective – the astounding news that the Virgin Mary conceived a child through the Holy Spirit and what this will mean for the world.
One can only imagine the complexity and confusion of the situation; and the dilemma that Joseph finds himself in when learning that Mary is pregnant. Jewish law and tradition demanded that in these circumstances serious consequences and punishments be applied to Mary. Joseph walks a balance as a ‘righteous man’ adhering to the tenets of his faith tradition requiring he divorce her but choosing to act with compassion to do so quietly, informally and thus spare Mary the indignity of public shaming. His decision is made, and his course of action set.
And then God, through an angel in his dream, asks Joseph to step outside his known and accepted cultural and religious norms into God’s own bigger plan for salvation. How beyond all human understanding must have God’s request seemed to Joseph?
In echoes of words spoken by God throughout the Old Testament the angel tells Joseph “Do not be afraid” – and Joseph changes course from the path he had decided upon. In faith, in obedience and with courage, Joseph accepts God’s invitation, and like Mary steps into the unknown. Joseph’s “Yes” to God’s plan – like any of his other words, is not recorded in the Gospel. We know Joseph by his actions – in three further encounters Joseph acts on the messages given to him by the angel – thereby protecting and nurturing Mary and Jesus his infant foster son.
How often have we been asked to step forth with similar courage and faith into a complex and challenging situation? To leave behind our logical, analytical and culture driven decisions and to seek to discern what the voice of the Holy Spirit is saying to us in quiet prayer and contemplation, even amidst the chaos and confusion of a situation?
How can I more fully model Joseph’s quiet, simple acceptance of the God’s call “Do not be afraid” and step into God’s plan for me?