Monday, December 6, 2010

Joseph the Righteous and the Pregnant Virgin

You know the Christmas story, don't you? Mary as a young virgin was told she was to give birth to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. As I mentioned last year, this is why we call her the mother of Christ, not the mother of God - the divine part came from God, not Mary. She supplied the human part.

But someone is almost always overlooked in this story or even mocked - in medieval tales they made him out to be the 'cuckolded husband.'

Joseph.

"Joseph [was] a righteous man..." we are told. We are further informed that he had married [by legal document] the young Mary. He was a hard-working man as a carpenter.

A year was the typical between the time of the marriage contract and the actual nuptials. It gave the bridegroom time to prepare their home, finish business, etc.

If he died in this time period, the almost-bride would even be called a 'widowed virgin.' Unusual, but it happened. Thus, when she is found to be pregnant - and Joseph KNOWS it is not his child, he plans to 'divorce her quietly.'

Now you have GOT to feel this, so you don't blow past it: he's found out that his fiance'/bride-to-be is PREGNANT and he was BUILDING their home, all excited about his soon to arrive Lover - yes, fanboys, Joseph was a virgin too - and she's 'got busy' with someone else?!

I know of a case where the bride had sex with the Best Man - SO the next day AFTER the VERY ELABORATE ceremony AT THE $$$$ RECEPTION, the Groom gave to all the guests present photos of the act.

That was cold. Perhaps even vengeful. But, as Chris Rock once gleefully acknowledged, "I understand."

Joseph was not like that. Heartbroken, he was not going to punish Mary. He knew the shame and humiliation she would receive would be enough. And in this small village, who would marry her now?

No - he refused vengeance though heartbroken.

And then God through an angel comforted him...

"Do not be afraid! What is born in her IS of the Holy Spirit!"

Modern translation for the non-religious: "Its OK, Joe. She did NOT cheat on you! God is at work - like He was at Creation!"

Wow.

Now think... can you imagine him going over to her house to reconcile? How so many of the family were glaring at him, SURE that HE did it and wouldn't own up? Or that by not marrying her, they would have to live with the shame? [So their anger is really fear disguised?]

But when he sits privately with her and says "I had a dream... and an Angel told me...", I believe she started crying.

"So, Mary, do you mind if I ask you a question?"
"Yes...*sniff*... Joseph?"
"Is October 22nd still good for you?"
"...YES!....." [smiles through tears] ..it is VERY good!"

And then the families are relieved. They KNOW Joseph is being a GOOD man.

He is taking on his responsibility; OF COURSE IT IS HIS CHILD! Mary had eyes for no other - and he would NOT marry her if it was not HIS child!

That is what must have gone through their minds, for God only spoke to Mary, Joseph and Mary's distant cousins Elizabeth & Zechariah.

They thought they had him pegged. They were glad he was a good man, though.

But they were wrong, kids.

Joseph was not a good man.

Joseph was a RIGHTEOUS man.

And a righteous man surpasses a good man like a supersonic jet surpasses a biplane.

He's a man who did what was right and would sacrifice anything to make something that was wrong into something that was right.

By marrying the pregnant Mary, all her shame was transferred to him.

This is SO like Jesus, I cannot tell you.

That was his secret power and glory. His personal choices against all voices. Against ignorance, against cynical certitude - even his own.

Think about him this season and realize that Joseph was the man God hand-picked to raise His Son Jesus on Earth.

He was something else, indeed.

Amen.

1 comment:

cq4fun said...

You know, I like that view of Joseph! It's pretty close to my long-held ideas of him.

Post a Comment