“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:18–25, NASB95)
We are getting close to Christmas. “`Tis the Season” to reread the account of the nativity. It is my habit every year to restudy the Biblical narrative of Jesus birth. I learn something new every year. This year, the history of Joseph and his reaction to the events surrounding the birth of Jesus caught my attention.
It is compelling that Joseph chose to take Mary as his wife even though she was pregnant. Joseph was a righteous man. He did have questions about this. Anyone would. I often thought that his dilemma was with the fact that Mary was pregnant and as a righteous man he would not appear righteous if he still married her. But I studied the meaning of righteousness and came to a different conclusion.
Righteousness is often confused with being right. It doesn’t mean perfect or always accurate as I thought. The word righteousness is a relational word. It means that you are keeping promises, acting justly, and meeting reasonable expectations in a relationship.
Joseph was a keeper of the law. He obeyed God’s Word. But there had to be more than that, or he wouldn’t have been pondering what he should do. The law seemed pretty straight forward.
If Mary had been with another man, according to the law, the right thing to do was to have her stoned (Lev 20:10). She was pregnant, and it wasn’t his child. He could have brought her before the Pharisees and ruined her. But being a righteous man he did not want to disgrace her or see her die, because had a relationship with her. In relationship, in love he wanted something else for her, so he pondered (meditated) on these things.
God provided an answer. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and explained the circumstances. Mary was miraculously pregnant. God had a righteous plan. The Savior of the entire world was to come through Joseph’s bride. Joseph would have the responsibility of loving, protecting, and providing for this woman and for the Son of God.
It wasn’t a plan that made everyone look good. Most people thought Joseph had married a loose woman or that they had been together before it was proper. There would be gossip and rumors for the rest of their lives. No, this plan didn’t make them look right, but it was a righteous plan. It was God demonstrating his righteousness. It was God keeping promises, acting justly, and meeting expectations.
Joseph didn’t have a problem following this plan. Joseph got up and obeyed God. It was second nature to him to obey God. He was a righteous man. He had a relationship with God, so he responded by meeting God’s expectations, acting justly, and keeping the promises and commitments he had made. Joseph was a righteous follower of God, a righteous husband and a righteous father.
This Christmas, I have learned that I truly want to be righteous. I want more than just to do the right thing. I want live in relationship in a right way. I want righteousness to be my character. I want to get out of bed and obey God. Not to be right, but because I have a relationship with God through his Christmas gift, Jesus.