…his calloused hands and weary eyes.  There were no midwives to be found on the streets of David’s town in the middle of the night.  So the lyrics go in Andrew Peterson’s song, “Labor of Love” (sung by Jill Phillips).  Joseph is one of my heroes of the faith.  He was a just man and did not want to make a public example of Mary (Matthew 1:19).  He was an obedient man, “Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, DID as the angel of the Lord commanded (Matthew 1:24).  He was also a devout man.  Joseph and Mary went up to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41).  Every year.

He was a just man, a gracious man, an obedient man and a devout man.  All of these things in the context of his fiancee becoming pregnant and coming up with an amazing story to explain why she was ‘with child’.  Oh, he didn’t believe her story at first – who would?  But, an angel came and told him that the baby in her womb was of the Holy Spirit and that He would save His people from their sins.  Then he woke up and obeyed and took Mary as his wife prior to Jesus being born.

This is the thing that I admire most about Joseph.  He, in taking Mary as his wife and not having conceived the child with Mary, subjected himself and his family to the wagging tongues of Nazareth.  It doesn’t appear that Jesus was really ever to distance himself from the jaundiced eye of some folks who knew of the family situation (John 8:41).  The issue 2000 years ago was the embarrassment of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy.  I guess that not a lot has changed in 2000 years since in that regard.  ‘Unplanned’ pregnancies are still an embarrassment (at least they still were 19 years ago).  Sadly, and to my shame, I know the embarrassment that Joseph must have felt.  I know, in a very real sense, what it is to have friends vanish because of what you’ve done.  My wife and I know the shame it brings upon families to be ‘with child’ outside the bonds of marriage.  But here’s what I don’t know.  Here is where I can’t identify with Joseph.  He was a just man, he was blameless in the whole ordeal.  And out of obedience, he married a girl pregnant with a Child that wasn’t his.  So as folks sneered and the town gossips chattered and the immediate families distanced themselves and their friends deserted them – Mary and Joseph were blameless before God.  And that was enough for them.

You see, this Mary who was full of grace and this noble Joseph by her side raised a Son.  And that Son kept the law of God perfectly and died as the spotless Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world SO THAT nearly 2000 years later, a girl who wasn’t full of grace named April and boy who wasn’t just or gracious or obedient or devout  named Rick (in fact, no good thing was in him at all) could look to their SON and find in Him forgiveness – not for one sin – but for ALL of their sins.

My encouragement to you this Christmas would be to look upon and lay hold of that same Jesus that April and I, by the grace of God, laid hold of 17 years ago.  He’s the same today as He was then – He still forgives those who earnestly seek Him.  My friend, by God’s grace and with His Spirit’s help, lay hold of Jesus and leave your sin the same place two teenage kids left theirs – nailed to cross.

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