BETHEL — This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us." When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
In Jesus' culture, the engagement was as legally binding as the marriage itself. Mary and Joseph were "married" legally, but Matthew makes it very clear there had been no sexual union yet. After that union they would be fully married and not just engaged.
Point one is that God is looking for clean vessels for his most noble purposes. Paul says some vessels in a house are used for noble purposes and some for ignoble purposes (2 Timothy 2:20-21). We all belong to God and he will use all of us for his purposes. I want to be used for noble purposes. It does matter that Mary was a virgin so she could fulfill the prophecy found in Isaiah 7:14, among other reasons. God chose Mary and Joseph, in part, because they were righteous.
Joseph could have had Mary whipped or stoned for being unfaithful to him when she became pregnant. But he was going to divorce her privately because he didn't want to harm her — even though he thought she had harmed him. Then he showed tremendous faith when he believed what the angel told him. He was a righteous man, a man of a faith and a man of love.
Craig Harris is the pastor at Brushy Creek United Methodist Church in Brushy Creek and Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church in Pert. Sunday services are at 9:30 a.m. at Brushy Creek and 11 a.m. at Pert. See more of his columns at www.instantmessagelive.com.