This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the 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 she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel,
a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.
‘When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.’
As simple as that? That is what the Gospel would have us believe.
That Joseph, an ordinary working man - not a priest or a prophet – would accept the memory of a dream of an angel.
That Joseph, a hard-working man, living the life of a peasant; would believe that his God would ask him to be the father of his Son.
That Joseph, as much as he may have loved her, would see in Mary the Mother of his God.
As simple as that; but surely no easier; no less blest; no less full of grace for Joseph to say 'yes' than for Mary?
In fact, for Mary the simplest proof, for her, will be the child growing within her over the next months; whilst Joseph must simply trust; must accept the word of an angel and the word of his wife to be. And to trust it for the rest of his life. His, seemingly, very ordinary life. After all, how little we know about Joseph.
In earlier times, such a request would have come with a deal; a covenant; a promise or two from God that this or that would happen. There is none of that here. God asks simply for Joseph's help; to be a true father to this child; a true husband to Mary. Joseph - an ordinary man living out an extraordinary promise.
And the miracle is that he does.
How could he have possibly, absolutely known it was God’s Will.
I would say – he didn’t know. But he made a choice - he chose not to ‘know’; he chose not to judge; he chose to accept.
‘let it be unto me according to your Word’.
Mary, being awake at the time, was able to answer the angel in words; Joseph answered in action and acted with integrity. Despite the possibility that it was only a dream, perhaps from Mary it was only an excuse; but who was he to judge?
There would be years ahead of whispers and gestures made behind backs and under veils. He knew this - he knew all he could do was be himself; all he could be was a loving husband, a good father. Which is what he had planned to be all along – maybe why he had been chosen too.
We too are ordinary people. We may look at others -believing that in God's eyes they are better than us; believe others are reaching great spiritual heights; speaking with authority; working miracles amongst the poor and the homeless; being acknowledged by the great and the good. And we will say that God is with them; but not only with them.
Joseph's son will be Emmanuel - God is with us.
Jesus speaks to all of us through Joseph; gives him his two great Commandments before he is even born. Asks him to love God with all his heart, soul and mind; asks him to love as he would wish to be loved– to believe Mary as he would expect to be believed, to love this child as any child deserves to be loved.
And Joseph says 'yes'.