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. 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.LutheranChik writes,
How easy it is to place parameters on our acts of mercy; to measure out our compassion in easily manageable units, according to our own comfort level, at our own convenience; perhaps, deep down, according to our own sense of competence: "I can go this far; no farther."Joseph risked the different way. I remember times when I took that path and spent the time to drive someone to the auto-parts store so I could buy her brake shoes. (With the church's emergency fund.) And I remember the times I didn't go, or didn't pick up the phone because I was sure it was a late Friday request for help from the network of people who call churches and know how to time the call so their need can't be verified before the deadline for weekend housing is here.
By the standards of his own time and culture, Joseph exceeded most people's expectations of how a prospective husband should treat a fiancee' found to be pregnant. He would have been within his rights to publicly denounce Mary as an adulteress and let the community guardians of morality deal with her in the way that patriarchal societies have traditionally dealt with women deemed to be sexually compromised. But no, he decided; he would take the high road: He would quietly call off the marriage, let Mary's family deal with the problem of her pregnancy, and walk away -- embarrassed and disappointed, surely, but blameless; and free to start over. There; he'd do his duty and then some.
What were Joseph's thoughts, one wonders, when he realized that God had a different plan -- one that would presumably implicate him as father of Mary's child, bringing his morality as well as Mary's into question; one that would additionally place on his shoulders the enormous responsibility of raising a child not his own, a child whose origin he could scarcely imagine? Did Joseph feel a hesitation, a catch of uncertainty, as he weighed the consequences of assenting to the task assigned to him?
Prayer: Loving, gracious and merciful God, help me make room for Christ in my life by making room for risk on behalf of others. Help calm the fears that separate me from others. Let me say "yes" to the next right thing I'm called to do on behalf of my neighbors -- even when it's difficult, even when it comes at a cost. Help me do these things for Jesus' sake. Amen.