This was how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph. But before they were married, she found out that she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit. Joseph was a man who always did what was right, but he did not want to disgrace Mary publicly; so he made plans to break the betrothal privately. While he was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus—because he will save his people from their sins.” So when Joseph woke up, he married Mary, as the angel of the Lord had told him to. But he had no sexual relations with her before she gave birth to her son. And Joseph named him Jesus.
While betrothed to Joseph, Mary became pregnant. In light of the fact that she had obviously committed adultery, at least, that would be public consensus, she must be stoned.
“Mary found out that she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit.” Can you imagine Mary attempting to defend herself by saying that the Holy Sprit impregnated her. Most likely the towns people would have thought her to be deranged!
We’re not told how Joseph, a carpenter (“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?), found out about Mary’s pregnancy. Most likely Mary told him. Can you imagine the embarrassment and confusion Joseph must have felt?
Mary’s indecency triggered a great dilemma for Joseph. The Law required him to make Mary’s guilt public, followed by stoning. However, he “was a man who always did what was right.” So, he didn’t make a rash decision. Rather, he thought about his options. First, he concluded that he did not “want to disgrace Mary publicly.” Though the public knew about it (Nazareth was a small city), nothing would be triggered unless Joseph acted upon Mary’s supposed guilt. Second, he made plans to break the legal betrothal PRIVATELY. “When a man takes a wife and marries (betroths) her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, then let him write her a bill of divorce and put it in her hand and send her out of his house.” (Deuteronomy 24:1)
While Joseph pondered his options, an angel visited him in a dream. (That’s another topic!) Note, the angel uttered the same words as he had given to Mary: “Do not be afraid...” Then the angel provided Joseph with “the inside story.” Mary was going to have a special son. Joseph was to give him the name “Jesus“. As a Jew, Joseph would know the meaning of that word. Joshua was the great leader who took the Jews into the Promise Land, His name meant “to save.” The word “Jesus” derives from the same Hebrew root as “Joshua.” Undoubtedly, this was confirmation for a bewildered man!
Upon waking, Joseph obediently affirmed the betrothal by taking Mary into his house. Furthermore, to protect the veracity of the angel’s declaration about Mary’s son, Joseph “had no sexual relations with Mary before she gave birth to her son.”
Given Joseph’s action towards Mary, did Joseph’s family and friends break off relationships? Was he viewed as a weak man? Was he accused of having low moral standards? Did he lose business? Did he continue to attend meetings at the synagogue? Did the men of the city attempt to dissuade him from his intended action? We don’t know. Here’s what we do know: what began as a life threatening situation for Mary ended with the loving care of Joseph, the man to whom she was betrothed. No disgrace. No stoning. No divorce. Only LOVE!
This was Mary’s Christmas!