He did what the angel commanded

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.

Matthew 1:24-25

The old phrase says that “behind every great man there is a great woman,” the idea being that a man can only achieve greatness with the support of his wife or significant other. Today, though, the reverse is also often true. Over the last hundred years or so we have seen woman gain greater equality than men, and I’m sure that women who have achieved greatness would acknowledge the support of their husbands or boyfriends. Ultimately, in the context of marriage, men and women work together to support each other in their hopes, dreams and aspirations.

When we think of the birth of Jesus, we rightly think of the role of Mary. She, after all, gave birth to the Son of God. Without her, history would have been very different indeed. We often overlook the role of Joseph, however. At the time of Mary’s conception, she was engaged to Joseph, which in those days was a legally binding agreement very similar to marriage. Joseph, upon finding out that Mary was pregnant, decided to quietly separate from her in order not to bring shame upon her. Joseph then encountered an angel in a dream, which told him not to divorce Mary, since the baby she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The angel tells Joseph that Mary’s son is the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies of the messiah. When Joseph awoke from his dream, he humbly did exactly what the angel told him; he took Mary as his wife, despite the likelihood thqat this would bring him shame, to be seen to be taking a pregnant woman as his wife. He also stood by and supported Mary until she gave birth.

All in all, Joseph seems to have been rather a good bloke. He clearly loved Mary and wanted to do the right thing by her. He also loved God, and wanted to honour him. He did not react angrily to the news of Mary’s pregnancy but stood by her and loved her. I think we can all learn something about how we regard other people – not just our partners, but our friends and colleagues – as well as how we need to accept the plans that God has for us and those whom we love in a calm and humble manner.

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