“And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded…”Matthew 1:24
A favorite evening television show of mine is one that airs on ABC called What Would You Do? It’s a hidden camera show that observes and comments on how ordinary people behave when they are confronted with a dilemma that requires them to either take courage and act or ignore and go on with their business. As I read the account of the conception and birth of Jesus, the producers of the hit ABC show may very well have gained inspiration from this most important nativity story that took place over 2,000 years ago and the difficult decision faced by one of its leading characters, Joseph: “What Would [He] Do?”
Matthew 1:18 states, “This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Joseph and Mary had their plans laid out—the customary year of engagement before beginning married life together. Can you imagine how Joseph must have felt when he found out Mary was pregnant? The only way he could explain her pregnancy, since he and Mary had not consummated their marriage, was that she had been unfaithful to him. But, Joseph was a “righteous man” with strength of character and courageously chose to forgive her and sought to divorce her privately to protect her from public disgrace. Let me ask, “What would you do?”
As Joseph considered this, an angel of the Lord explained to him in a dream that Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit and they were to name their son “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). When Joseph woke up, he had a critical decision to make: move forward with the divorce or proceed with the engagement with Mary and most likely face public embarrassment and ridicule from society. Joseph chose the latter. He made the courageous decision to obey God, took Mary to be his wife, and humbly accepted the responsibility to “step-father” and provide for a child not his, but for the Son of God—a tremendous privilege, an extraordinary undertaking. Again, “What would you do?”
Rather than being resentful, Joseph readily accepted God’s will and embraced Jesus as his own child. Joseph was obedient to God’s commands—journeying from Nazareth to Bethlehem, then to Egypt, then back to Nazareth. Months of travel over treacherous terrain made it possible for baby Jesus to survive the life-threatening early years of His life. And because Joseph placed his trust in God, he was courageous enough to stand up and face his fears and doubts. Joseph teaches us that when you live God’s way and give Him complete control of your life, then you, too, can live courageously.