I've been blogging through the Bible this year, simply "thinking out loud" as I read through the events chronologically. This week, though, I simply couldn't continue this pattern. I had to talk about the story of Christmas. :-)
On Sunday, I talked about seeing "A Glimpse of God" in our marriages. In this talk, I pointed out that people can see God at work from the very beginning of our relationship - how we select our spouse. Then we have the opportunity to Reflect God's Image in the way we treat one another and multiply His legacy through our children. This is how we let God work in and through us in our marriages.
Joseph was faced with a real problem. He selected his wife in a way that honored God. He even honored God by waiting to share sexual intimacy with his wife until after the wedding took place. His fiance, it seemed, didn't. She was pregnant. He knew he wasn't the father. What should he do?
God's law gave Joseph an out. In fact, the law stated that he could make sure she got what she deserved for humiliating him, disgracing her parents, and rebelling against God.
The woman must be taken to the door of her father's home, and there the men of the town must stone her to death, for she has committed a disgraceful crime in Israel by being promiscuous while living in her parents' home. In this way, you will purge this evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 22:21 NLT)
Mary would be dead. Joseph could move on...or could he. Clearly he loved Mary enough to not want the death penalty for her. At the same time, he couldn't bear the thought of marrying a woman who had been with another man - much less raise her child as his own. In God's law, any scenario that involves the discovery of Mary's infidelity while engaged to Joseph will result in Mary's death, along with her lover. However, if Mary slept with a man and she wasn't engaged, another law kicked in place.
"Suppose a man has intercourse with a young woman who is a virgin but is not engaged to be married. If they are discovered, he must pay her father fifty pieces of silver. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he may never divorce her as long as he lives. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NLT)
Joseph can save her life by simply breaking the engagement. That way, Mary can live her life with her lover and they can raise their child together. So, Joseph made a decision.
Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. (Matthew 1:19 NLT)
A marriage is a relationship filled with opportunities to make decisions. A marriage that honors God will lay those decisions before God. A spouse that honors God will also choose to serve his or her spouse. The best decisions are the ones that do both - honor God and serve our spouse. Joseph was clearly trying to do both. In the end, he would lose the one that he loved, but his decision would allow her to live. This was the beginning of a Christmas marriage.