Scripture: Matthew 1:18-23; Isaiah 7:10-16
During Advent we are doing a sermon series called The Chosen One. This series is based on the lectionary readings, which set up Jesus’ birth in the form of an epic. Each week the action builds, drawing us closer to the fulfillment of the prophecy that is foretold in the first week. This week we are focused on Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph.
In the ancient world, marriage was about making your family stronger. Your parents would establish relationships with other families who they believed would maintain or improve the family name. In this way, marriages were about forming alliances, so marriages were arranged by your parents. Often, you had no say in the matter. That’s because in areas like Galilee, the girls were often married between the ages of 12 and 14. While the boys were usually married between the ages of 16 and 18.
However, when it comes to girls in the ancient world, what made them valuable was their virginity. Indeed, the only way they could become married is if they were virgins. This expectation meant that Mary becoming pregnant out of wedlock was a very serious situation. The likely outcome is that she would be stoned to death by the men in her community for being unfaithful to Joseph.
But what the gospel of Matthew tells us is that Joseph chose a different path. The text tells us: “Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.” What this short verse lets us know is that Joseph made a decision to not make Mary’s pregnancy a public affair. Rather than draw shame to her and her family by highlighting her pregnancy to the elders in Nazareth, he makes a decision to simply withdraw the offer for marriage and move on with his life.
But as we all know, Joseph doesn’t just move on. He actually sticks with Mary and follows through with the marriage. We’re going to talk about how unusual this was in the ancient world and why such an action on Joseph’s part sets the foundation for the gospel in an incredible way. This is the last Sunday in Advent and then Christmas Eve on Tuesday evening! I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.