Joseph was told that his fiancé, Mary, was to have a baby. Enough of a startling revelation as it was, but to be visited by an angel who tells you this child is the promised coming Messiah is almost too much. I think of the emotions swirling about in Joseph’s mind. After all, any ordinary man would have a mixture of such emotions—the internal adjustments you make as you process in your mind and heart that 1.) your fiancé whom you have not yet been intimate is pregnant; 2.) you realize, perhaps by surprise, that your love and compassion outweighs your need to save face; 3.) that this child who isn’t yours is to be raised by you; 4.) that this child is the promised one of God, who will save you from your sin. You would feel—what, doubt and skepticism, fear and worry, overwhelmed, joyful, sorrowful—this is almost too much for anyone to grasp.
Yet Joseph, a good man who wants to do right by his promise, has the very human idea of distancing himself from the entire situation; not to extract vengeance as was his right and not to play the wounded lover, but to simply, quietly, give her back to her family and call the whole thing off. She and her family can deal with repercussions of the situation. But, that is not the way God wants it to be. He is to marry her, care for her and the child, and all of this knowing that this child may indeed be the anointed one of God who would come to save Israel. Could you be this obedient in the face of personal humiliation?
Good men, truly good men, the kind with ethics and morals that are uncompromising and true are hard to come by. It is as difficult for today’s men to live up to the Captain America standard (manly, brave, a moral compass that points true north, looks good in a costume), as it is for women to live up to the Proverbs 31 woman (in charge of the home, makes her husband and kids look good, while still having her own career). I think, however, Joseph was not some illusive image of a good man, but truly one who shows mercy, loves justice, and in spite of the emotions that follow, walks with God humbly. Are you a Joseph kind of person? One who simply does what you believe to be right quietly and without fanfare, without seeking your rights, but rather protecting the rights of others. I think Joseph is a good example for all of us—male and female—this season of Advent when there is so much going on in the world that gives us the opposite understanding of what is right and wrong.