An Advent Lesson ~ The Righteousness of Joseph (part 2)

Joseph’s Struggle (cont’d)

Read part 1 here ….. Today we continue with Joseph Davidson and the story of his struggle to be a righteous man and the earthly father of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Let’s hear the rest of his story from his perspective. Joseph, please go on … 

Well, as I said, when Mary told me she was made pregnant by the Spirit of God, I just couldn’t believe it! And to tell the truth, I can’t say I reacted very well at first. I wanted to lash out; I wanted to hurt her as much as she had hurt me. The Law said that a woman found in adultery should be stoned to death. Now I understood that law in a way I never had before. I wanted to get back at her, for ruining our love, my faith and trust, for tarnishing my good name.

I had spent my life trying to live to a certain standard, to live so that people would respect me. A scandal like this would ruin me. Everyone would just assume that I was the father. Just think how far a crazy story about being visited and made pregnant by the Spirit of God was going to go down in the marketplace and at the village wells! Nobody would believe it. I knew I had to go public. I had to gather the elders and publicly dissolve the betrothal. I would tell everyone that I was not responsible. If nothing else came out of this mess at least, maybe, I could keep my good name.

But you know what? I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to have any harm come to Mary. I loved her, I completely, totally loved her. Even though she’d shattered my faith I didn’t want to make a public example of her. Of course, there was no way I could marry her, but the Law said it was up to the man what should be done in a situation like this, although there had never really been this kind of situation before or since! I could get a couple of my friends, give her a private bill of divorce and that would be that. Of course, the reason would soon be obvious, but without a complaint from me nothing could legally be done to Mary.

In the meantime, Mary had to get away from the village before the gossip started. The sarcastic, nasty gossip around the village well would be too much for her to handle. So she went south, to Hebron. She had relatives there, who would give her the support she needed and they had room for her to stay.

While she was away, I calmed down and I began to think. I spent a lot of time walking around in a daze and working at my bench. I didn’t care about eating. I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on in life. Then the dreams started. Always the same. Walking down a dark corridor and suddenly this blinding light and an angel would be there. How did I know it was an angel? Good question. I know that it may sound a little crazy, but sometimes  you just know that you are being visited by an angel of God. Anyway, the angel told me not to be afraid. “Joseph”, the angel said, “don’t be afraid to take Mary for your wife. The child she bears is from the Holy Spirit. You will call his name Jesus and he will save his people from their sins”.

Let me tell you something, for a carpenter that was hard to take. I mean, dreams come to prophets not wood workers! And I couldn’t talk about any of this without revealing Mary’s dreadful secret. Today I’m embarrassed to say that even then I still was thinking about it as her problem and her secret. What was I to do? And the dreams kept repeating, and each time they were more powerful.

A wise person once said that there comes a time that we need to recognize what time it is in life. That time had come for me and I knew that it was time for me to make a decision. Nothing would ever be the same. I had to choose – would it be life without Mary, always wondering if those dreams were true, if God was somehow doing the most unexpected thing in the most unexpected way? Or would it be life with Mary, with all sorts of unexpected troubles and surprises? My reputation may have been ruined even if I did divorce Mary and she had the child because everyone would just assume that I was the father. People might not say anything to me but I knew what they’d think. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve thought that way about others occasionally.
I made my decision. I decided to marry Mary because I knew that the only real thing in life I had to hold on to was my faith.

Next thing I knew, I was on my way to Hebron. I told Mary about my dreams and apologized for doubting her. I brought her back to Nazareth with me and as soon as possible we were married. I thought, it’ll be tough, but if God is in it, it won’t be too bad. I had no idea how wrong I could be!

Soon we were married and I know you’ve heard all about Caesar’s decree concerning the census. But I wonder, have you ever really thought about travelling 90 miles … in the winter … on a donkey … when you’re nine months pregnant? Then the crowds everywhere in Bethlehem! My own family had no place for us to stay with everyone coming in from out-of-town. Everywhere you turned there were people underfoot. Finally we found some shelter in a stable that someone had carved out of the rock. When the time came Mary had to be both mother and midwife. I’m a wood worker. What do I know about delivering babies? Wouldn’t you think that if God had been planning this for years some better arrangements might have been made?

Anyway, life didn’t settle down for a very long time. Once Jesus arrived, life was always a combination of the ordinary and the extraordinary. So many things happened, everything from those astrologers from the East worshipping our toddler to becoming refugees so Herod’s soldiers wouldn’t get him.

Just like any other proud father, I have plenty more stories to share but the time is coming very soon for me to celebrate my son’s and my Savior’s birthday. I’ve probably overstayed my welcome so I hope you’ll forgive me for going on, but it seems not many people are interested in my view on those strange and wonderful months.

You know, I once thought, as a young man, that if I ever saw an angel I’d never have any doubts about what God wanted from me. Then I saw an angel; it was vivid and real to me. But I have often had plenty of questions for God and wondered if I heard the angel correctly. Did I make it all up? To be truthful, Jesus didn’t seem like the Savior of the world. You sing “no crying he makes”; well you should have been at our house in the middle of the night when he was cutting teeth! When he fell on Nazareth’s streets and skinned his knee, it bled. I held him in my lap and told him stories and he fell asleep.

Some of you reading this have a faith like Mary’s. It’s rich, devout and strong. You are God’s special people. Some of you are more like me. You live in a world of cause and effect. You believe your doubts, you doubt your beliefs. I know. I’ve been there. The only thing left that I can tell you is that when I faced those questions I came down on the side of faith. If you like, I faithed it through, even when I didn’t feel like believing. I trusted, even when I didn’t feel like trusting. That’s what God used. I’m not the main character of the story. But as you celebrate, you might want to remember in a corner of your mind that God chose me to be part of the story. Joe Davidson, a carpenter who believed as best he could.

And if you allow God to use you with your questions and doubts and faith, how much can God can accomplish using each of us with our questions and doubts and our faith? Amen

*The story above is my edited version of a “A Rough Ride For The Righteous” – Sermon from Ross Bartlett*, as shared with TELOS Online Community on Sunday, December 24, 1995.

*Ross Bartlett is an United Church of Canada clergyperson with a number of sermons posted to this site. This particular sermon was also preached by R. Haddon Robinson. Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton Mass, US around the same time period. Attribution is not certian and Dr. Bartlett may have shared Dr. Robinson’s material or vice-versa.


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