“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.” (Matthew 1:18 – 19)
When I was younger and feeling more vulnerable in me own personhood, this bothered me – Mary being put in such an awkward situation, Joseph being subject ridicule and embarrassment, and their families being held up to shame. How could the Divine do that?!
But as I grew older and matured, battled my own ups and downs, and became stronger in the process – I realized God is with us and protects us. And what looks untenable from the outside is rather managed on the inside. Mary knew what was happening to her, and why. She had security in being the handmaiden of God. And Joseph . . .
“But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Verses 20 – 21)
One of the reasons I bristled at this when I was younger, and explains a good deal why have issues with some commentators . . .
“All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Verse 23)
“This was planned?!” my younger self said. “It was the intention for a small town girl to be possibly held up for embarrassment and censure!!” How, I wondered, could commentators and biblical scholar appropriate verses spoken/written centuries and generations ago, and laden it on a young woman! It is also why I have such admiration for Mary – to go through this, give birth essentially alone, and hold her head up through it all.
But as I said, my younger self has given way to my older self, and while my admiration for Mary has not dimmed one whit, I understand that the commentators are just bend scripture towards their own theology and a theology that moves the story of God’s people along from the very beginnings down to the birth of Christ. We (meaning humanity) like to think random events are intentional and that there is always a plan. It is hard to take things as they come, and find strength and conviction in one’s inner faith rather than outer signs. Again, that is why I admire Mary. And believe that Joseph was an excellent to choice to be Jesus’ surrogate father.
“When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.” (Verses 24 – 25)
This is not the whole story of Jesus’ birth. The other gospels tell a fuller story with more of the elements of the nativity than Matthew does. But it is a good story, who ever the teller is. And a story that hold many teachings and treasures no matter what our age and understanding. Selah!