Let God Decide
Written by Scott Nelson
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[a]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 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. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.”
The central figure of Christmas is Jesus Christ, as it should be. Christmas, after all, is about God coming into the world as human, in the form of a newborn child. Jesus is the star of the story. The traditional supporting cast includes Mary, the Wise Men, the shepherds, a few angels, and depending on the extent of your clay figurine nativity set, a whole slew of barnyard animals. And oh, of course, Joseph. Oh Joseph, what are you even doing here?
Joseph wasn’t exactly required for the conception of Jesus, that was God’s doing, and it was Mary who carried baby Jesus in her womb until his birth. So what value do we ascribe to a man that seems to just be along for the ride? I think Matthew 1:18-25 helps us to understand Joseph’s role and what lessons about marriage we can learn from his example.
In verse 19, we get an idea of Joseph’s personality. He is a rule follower and cares enough about Mary to consider the potential embarrassment she might endure if everyone found out she had a child out of wedlock. What is more, Joseph had an idea in mind, in this case to divorce Mary and sweep everything under the rug.
It is in this last part of verse 19 that I can relate to Joseph, and no, it’s not because I want to divorce my wife! Like Joseph, I consider myself a man of ideas. If I get an idea in my head, I have a hard time letting it go. When it comes to my marriage, this means making decisions on my own, at least internally, before considering what my wife, and more often God, has to say. A quick example. Two years ago after graduating from college my wife Erin and I were planning to move closer to where I went to school and she went to work. I was set on moving to a certain town that was just minutes away from the college campus at which I would be taking classes. I paid little mind to the fact that this town was further away from where Erin had found a job, I knew it would work out. After all, I had an idea and I was going to execute my plan. We came back from looking at apartments in this town without much luck. It wasn’t until Erin suggested we move to a town much closer to her school that I considered an idea other than my own. Her suggestion, prayer, and a few Google searches later, we found ourselves living in an apartment and community that we both enjoyed.
Admittedly, an angel did not swoop down from heaven (see verse 20) to persuade me to change my plan. Rather, I believe that God worked in other, more subtle ways. Whether that was Erin’s suggestion to look elsewhere, the friendliness of the staff at our new apartment, or our family’s support during our move, God had a large role in our lives during that time. I needed to let God make a decision about my marriage instead of me, and I’m so glad He did.
Now back to Joseph. Clearly, his idea of divorcing Mary did not pan out, for in verse 24 it says “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Joseph had a plan but he was willing to alter it just a bit and relinquish control to God. It’s a good thing he did as Joseph undoubtedly had an influence on Jesus’s life.
Like Joseph, I find myself making plans and decisions about my marriage before considering the perspectives of others, especially God’s. It is my hope that God can give me the patience and understanding to know that my way is not always the right way or the only way and to keep my mind and heart open to God’s guidance. After all, when God sent a message to Joseph, he listened, and the Christmas story is better for it.