The story of Mary and Joseph is incredible. The faith these two display is inspiring and it should be a story that we pause and reflect on.
Now, I know that we hear this story every year. It’s become routine so we don’t give it much thought. What should be an incredible and awe-inspiring story has become commonplace.
I want to revisit this famous story and look at it with fresh eyes. I think if we do that this story can come to life and reinvigorate our sense of awe.
The Story Of Mary And Joseph
As we read through the story of Mary and Joseph I would encourage you to place yourself in their shoes. Imagine what it must have been like to go through what they went through, feel what they felt, and do what they did. That will help this story take on a new life for you.
This story begins in Luke 1:26-27. Here we are introduced to Mary and Joseph and are told a few important details. Mary is likely young, about to be married to Joseph, and is a virgin (an important detail). Life is going according to plan for her.
Then a curve ball. An angel shows up. (Luke 1:28-29)
Luke records that Mary is greatly troubled. She knows that whatever comes out of that angel’s mouth next probably means her life is going to change forever.
Then a bomb is dropped. Mary, you are pregnant. (Luke 1:30-37) But that’s not all; she’s carrying the Son of God.
I know we read this story every year and it’s lost its shock value long ago. But put yourself in Mary’s shoes. What’s she thinking in that moment?
Today we think this must have been viewed as great news, what a blessing for Mary. But in that moment Mary probably isn’t thinking that. She’s scared, fearful, wondering why her, and wondering how in the world she is pregnant. She’s just trying to make sense of it all.
This was not good news for Mary, at least not in the short term. Her life has been flipped on its head. She could lose her marriage, her family could kick her out, she could become a social outcast, and at worse she could even be put to death. After all, no one is going to believe that the virgin became pregnant by God.
Mary’s life is forever changed.
While all this is happening Joseph is left in the dark. I’m not sure why God did it this way, but Mary had to tell Joseph she was pregnant before the angel visited him. There’s no way that that conversation is going to go well.
So, Mary goes off to find Joseph (Matthew 1:18-19) Guess what?! I’m pregnant. And I know you are thinking, how’s this even possible? But don’t worry… It’s from God.
Now put yourself in Joseph’s shoes… How would you respond?
Remember, at this point he hasn’t been told anything by God. The logical conclusion is that Mary cheated on him. And he does what most of us would have done. He dumps her.
He had to have been angry, but still, he treats her graciously. In doing so he reveals his character.
He had every right to throw Mary under the bus and publicly disgrace her. That would have upheld his social status. Instead, he quietly breaks up with her to spare her shame. A move that likely would have cost him. (Matthew 1:19)
What we learn is that Joseph is a good guy. Even when he’s perceived he’s been wrong, he does what is gracious.
Finally, in Matthew 1:20-23 an angel appears to Joseph and confirms what Mary told him.
Let’s put the story of Mary and Joseph back together and see how they responded to this crazy series of events.
Mary And Joseph’s Response
At this point in the story, both Mary and Joseph have a choice. Will they keep trusting God or go their own way?
Mary and Joseph are two of the greatest displays of faith in the entire Bible. They get overshadowed by Jesus, understandably, but their response is simply incredible.
Mary submitted to God and accepted the role he had given her. (Luke 1:38) But that’s not all. After the dust had settled and she had a clearer picture of what was happening, she wrote an incredible song proclaiming her faith and the goodness of God. (Luke 1:46-55)
Joseph did exactly what the angel told him. He took Mary as his wife, despite how that would look publicly. He took Jesus in as his own. And he did not sleep with Mary until after Jesus was born, something he was never told he had to do. (Matthew 1:24-25)
But things are about to get more difficult.
Caesar Augustus decrees that everyone has to go take a census. In those days that meant that they would have to travel back to their hometown. So not only are they ostracized from their community, but Mary, 8 months pregnant, has to travel on a donkey a long distance. Which I’m sure was very pleasant.
Understandably they arrive late and can’t find a room. Or more likely no one wanted to host them because they didn’t buy the virgin becoming pregnant story. So Mary is forced to give birth in a stable (a cave most likely) surrounded by animals.
No complaining, no whining about their circumstances. They faithfully follow God.
Even after all this, the story of Mary and Joseph doesn’t get any easier.
Herod hears of a king being born (Jesus) and feels threatened. So, he sends the Wise Men as spies so he can find this king. They double-cross him and warn Mary and Joseph, who subsequently flee to Egypt. Herod flips and decrees that EVERY boy under 2 is to be killed. (Matthew 2:3-17)
You see this story isn’t all happy and joyous like we think it is. Matthew 2:18 tells us a chilling prophecy was fulfilled, and there was weeping and great mourning over the children that had been killed. And that’s the Christmas story. That’s the part we all like to ignore, but it happened.
And yet despite all the troubles, drama, danger, grief, and even death, Mary and Joseph followed God and did what he said.
3 Lessons We Can Learn From Mary And Joseph
I want to end by offering 3 lessons that we can learn from the story of Mary and Joseph.
1. Fear Doesn’t Have To Dictate Your Faith
My guess is when you think about the Christmas story you don’t associate it with fear. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first words in the story of Mary and Joseph are “do not be afraid.”
Fear plays a central role in the Christmas story.
What Mary and Joseph teach us is how to be faithful despite our fear. They didn’t let fear dictate their faith. That’s why Mary was able to say, “I am the Lord’s Servant may it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)
When she says that, she doesn’t know exactly what’s in front of her, but she knows it won’t be easy. But she doesn’t look at her circumstances; rather she looks at the One who has control over her circumstances.
Fear didn’t stop Mary and Joseph’s obedience. Instead, they kept their eyes on God. The same is true for you. Fear doesn’t have to control you. Instead, focus on who has overcome.
2. Follow God’s Plan, Not Your Own Plan
Mary and Joseph were both thrown a curve ball, really several. Their response each time was to continue trusting in God’s plan.
I know in hindsight that might seem easy. After all, it was the Son of God who they were raising. But we know the end of the story, they didn’t. But they continued to trust anyway.
For us today I believe the same is true. I believe God has something incredible for you. But you have to abandon your safe plans to embrace the difficult, but meaningful, plans God has for you.
And we can’t possibly know what hangs in the balance on that decision to follow God’s calling on your life. Mary and Joseph certainly didn’t. So, follow God’s plan, I doubt you will ever regret it.
3. Trust God, Even When It Doesn’t Make Sense
The story of Mary and Joseph shows us how to trust God even when his plans don’t make sense. From a human perspective, the whole thing doesn’t make sense. But Mary and Joseph displayed faith anyway.
What I love about this story is you can see both Mary and Joseph’s human side. Mary questioned the angel. Joseph was about to leave Mary. They struggled with what God was asking them, as we all would.
They were struggling to understand a plan that from their perspective didn’t make any sense. And they choose that, despite their lack of understanding that they would trust God anyway.
Sometimes God asks us to do things that will not make sense. In those moments we need to be like Mary and Joseph. Look at God instead of what we think makes sense. We will struggle, as they did. But if we can push past those struggles and trust God, he can use us in incredible ways.
The story of Mary and Joseph is an incredible display of faith, trust, and what God can do through normal people. God has an incredible story to tell through you. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it.
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