What Mary and Joseph Can Teach Us About Fear

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We’ve all heard the Christmas story. Many of us read the story of Mary and Joseph every year around Christmas. But if you are anything like me your reading has become more of a skimming because you’ve heard it a million times. What was once an incredible and awe-inspiring story has become commonplace. 

But this story really is incredible and has huge implications for our lives. It just requires us to read it with fresh eyes. So let’s look at the story of Mary and Joseph and see what we can learn. The request God made of this young couple was scary and required a lot of faith. The question of this story is how will Mary and Joseph respond in the face of fear.

Read the story here:

Mary’s Story

Luke 1:26-38

Mary has her life planned out… She knows where she is going and what’s coming next. Then all of a sudden a curveball is thrown. 

An angel shows up. (Luke 1:28-29) 

Luke says Mary is greatly troubled. You think? 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. (Luke 1:30-37)

Mary, you are pregnant. Not just pregnant, but you are carrying the Son of God. 

What’s Mary thinking at this moment? What’s she feeling? I know we read this every year and it’s lost its shock value long ago. But put yourself in Mary’s shoes. This is NOT how she thought her life was going to go. This can’t be real, can it? 

Today we view this as good news. Good for Mary, that’s so great for her. What a blessing for her to carry the Son of God. But at 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. 

I imagine as she’s processing those feelings laying for sometime after the angel left, then the realization hits her, OH NO. I have to tell my parents… I have to tell Joseph… What are they going to think? I with the Bible recorded that conversation don’t you? Mom, dad. I’m pregnant. But don’t worry, I didn’t do anything wrong. You see there was this angel… Probably not going to fly. 

This was tough, life-altering news for Mary. It’s news that could cost her. Her marriage might be called off. She might lose friends. Her social status is over. And her life is even put in jeopardy. 

Pause here. Let’s switch over to Joseph.

Joseph’s Story 

I’m not sure why God did it this way, but Mary had to tell Joseph she was pregnant before the angel visits him. Can you imagine having to tell your fiancé you were pregnant with the Son of God?! How do you have THAT conversation? 

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… What’s he thinking right now? How is he going to respond? 

Joseph’s response tells us he’s a good guy, but he’s a normal guy. Reacts with anger, but he responds with grace. Joseph doesn’t buy her story, who would? And he reacts out of anger deciding to call off the wedding. Again, that’s what any normal person would do. But this is where we see his true colors, he’s a good guy. He could humiliate her in order to keep social standing for himself. But he doesn’t do that. Rather he divorces her quietly to spare her as much shame as possible and to protect her. He doesn’t have to do this, in fact, it would probably cost him. But he’s a good guy. 

Remember at this point Joseph only knows what Mary has told him and we can tell he doesn’t believe her. But he’s about to get his own visit from an angel. 

In Matthew 1:20-23 an angel appears to Joseph and confirms what Mary told him… Oh boy. 

Put yourself in his shoes. His head has to be spinning trying to grasp at what is going on. One day he’s about to get married, life is good. The next day you find out your fiancé is pregnant and you know you can’t be the father. She claims God is the father, that’s crazy so you back away very slowly. That night you are counting your blessings that her crazy side came out before the wedding when all of a sudden an angel appears and says, yeah what she said is true… 

What a day. 

Now both Mary and Joseph have a choice. Will they do what God is asking of them? 

Mary and Joseph Responding To Fear

What’s the first word you think about when you think about Christmas? My guess, it’s probably not fear. But it’s not a mistake that the first words out of the angel’s mouth were do not be afraid. Fear is a central part of the Christmas Story for Mary and Joseph. 

They have every right to be afraid. Their lives are falling apart. Mary at best will be ostracized and at worst killed for getting pregnant outside wedlock. Joseph will probably suffer similar social consequences and very well could lose his lively hood because he refused to denounce her publicly. Their lives are now a mess and they have every right to be afraid. 

To make matters worse, Herod, the king, decrees that everyone has to go take a census. In those days that meant that they would have to travel back to their home town. So not only are they ostracized from their community. But little Miss favored by God, 8 months pregnant has to travel on a donkey a long distance. I’m sure that was a pleasant journey.

We know the story, she arrives late, can’t find a room, and gives birth in a stable (a cave most likely) surrounded by animals. 

At this point, Mary and Joseph have to be thinking the worst is over. But it’s not. Herod hears of a king being born (Jesus) and feels threatened. So he decrees that EVERY boy under 2 is to be killed. Causing Mary and Joseph to flee to Egypt. 

So when the angel told them Do not be afraid they have to look back on that and chuckle right? I mean for years their life was a nightmare. Of course, they were going to be afraid. Anyone would be. 

Here’s the point. They didn’t let their fear dictate their actions. 

Fear Doesn’t Have To Dictate Our Faith

The key for Mary and Joseph was not to be absent of fear. Rather to be faithful despite their fear. 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’s able say that, and then live that, because she doesn’t look at her circumstances rather she looked at the one who has control over her circumstances. 

Fear didn’t stop her obedience. And I think that’s what makes Mary and Joseph so special. They followed God even when it cost them. But if I’m honest I can let fear stop my obedience. If you are like me then the Christmas Story is a reminder for us to not let fear control our lives. May we pray a prayer like Mary did Luke 1:38 not because our circumstances are easy, but because we are following the One who controls our circumstances. 

For more about fear check out: What The Bible Says About Fear (and what it means)

If you want to learn more about the Christmas story check these articles:

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Jeffery Curtis Poor
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