Matthew 1: 18-20, 24
The Nativity Story was released a few years ago. The story that so many of us have held so precious and dear played in theaters across the country during the 2006 Christmas season. I had not been aware that Hollywood would attempt to tell the story of Jesus' birth. I watched the trailer and viewed the book release of the still photos. I was enthralled. The authenticity of the historical setting overwhelmed me. But I asked would they get it right? Will these people I hold so dear to my heart be portrayed as who they really were? In 2006 I wanted to go see this movie and I was full of anticipation and trepidation.
I was most eager to see Joseph in the film—I have thought so much about him in recent days. While reading the first chapter of Matthew I kept returning to one verse over and over. Matthew says that "Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he has in mind to divorce her quietly ...”
Mary and Joseph were betrothed. They had taken vows. Binding vows. Mary makes a seemingly spontaneous decision to visit an older cousin in the hill country. Days turn to weeks and weeks to months. Joseph's betrothed returns from visiting Elizabeth. She comes with news for Joseph. She is with child. Joseph knows the child is not his. Decisions are imminent.
According to the law Joseph could divorce Mary. He could send her away in disgrace and shame. Actually a stoning would not have been completely frowned upon. Harsh. Yet most of his family and friends would have supported Joseph in this choice. He was the wronged one. He had the right to divorce Mary and find a more suitable wife.
But Matthew tells us that Joseph was a righteous man. And there are implications in the very fiber of that word. We expect something different from Joseph because of this description. And so we see him making a good choice. He chooses to divorce Mary quietly because he didn't want to expose her to public disgrace. This seems to be the good decision. A good plan.
God Almighty had another plan. This plan had been in place since the foundations of the world. Joseph was chosen by God, and God did not want his choice rearranged. God didn't want Joseph to make a good choice. God wanted Joseph to make the right choice. And so once again God Almighty sends a messenger with information to enable Joseph to make the right choice. And in a dream the angel says with great clarity: marry Mary.
Joseph is startled from his dream. He contemplates no longer. He obeys. In spite of her rounding abdomen Mary becomes the wife of Joseph of Nazareth. Joseph understood. This righteous man made the right choice.
A righteous man makes a godly decision. Precious Joseph made a hard choice, but it was God's choice.
Joseph didn't just appear to be a righteous man, he acted like one.
When I sat in the darkened theater and watched The Nativity Story I was hoping that somehow Hollywood would have noticed the difference in this man named Joseph. Would he be portrayed as a righteous man?
Sometimes we will be faced with a situation, and we will need to make a choice. We must stop and not be persuaded until we know God's choice. Will he send us an angel? I am not sure.
I want to be like Joseph. When faced with hard choices I want to have the courage to choose rightly. I want to have the wisdom to choose between good and godly. And that is part of the message of this holy season. God calls us beyond good decisions. He calls us to a righteousness that goes far beyond appearances.