While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.”
Can you imagine for a moment how the Christmas story might have been written if Mary and Joseph had not had the capacity to adjust to things beyond their control?
To begin with, Joseph had to adjust to the fact that Mary, his fiancée, was pregnant. According to Old Testament law, he could have had her stoned or sent her into some large distant city like Rome, Carthage, or Ephesus.
But God sent an angel to tell Joseph that Mary was with child by the Holy Spirit and would give birth to a son whose name would be Jesus. So instead of sending Mary away, Joseph married her.
While the first year of marriage is always difficult, Mary and Joseph faced a unique set of challenges. Nine months of pregnancy require enormous adjustments from a couple, regardless of how long they’ve been married — and this was no run-of-the-mill pregnancy. On top of dealing with the implications of the impending birth, Mary and Joseph were trying to establish their home, run a business, and learn how to live with each other. Further, they were forced to close down their business and travel to Bethlehem as the first step of a Roman plan to raise taxes. Just what they needed!
Early one morning, Mary and Joseph left their honeymoon abode to reach Bethlehem. She was riding on the back of a little burro. Joseph had a short tether wrapped around his arm and anchored securely in his big fist to keep the little burro from dislodging Mary, who was more than eight months pregnant. At night they had no motel. They stopped along the road, cooked with makeshift arrangements, slept on the hard ground, and made the best of a difficult situation.
Finally, when they arrived within sight of the city, Mary stopped. We can imagine her looking up at her husband and saying something like, “Joe, I cannot take another step. I am going to sit down here under this olive tree, and I want you to go into the city of Bethlehem and get us a room in the Bethlehem Hilton. I’ll get room service and wait out the time for the baby to come.”
Mary was a long way from home, worn-out, tired, emotionally drained, and at the end of her rope. Furthermore, she must have wondered what she would do if her labor pains began and Joseph was not near.
Finally Joseph returned, his characteristic smile gone, his shoulders drooping. She listened as he told her his story: “Mary, I went to the hotel, but there was no room. Finally, I persuaded an old man to let us stay in the barn with his animals. He’s charging an exorbitant price, Mary, but he promised he’d cover the floor with fresh straw. And most of all, Mary, he said we could be alone, and he would not make us share the stall with anyone else.”
That night the Son of God was born.
Can you imagine how the Christmas story might have been written if Mary and Joseph had not had the capacity to adjust to things beyond their control?
Every couple on earth must learn to develop this capacity if they are to enjoy a happy marriage. Life is filled with too many unexpected turns and unforeseen problems.
Without the capacity to rise above your circumstances, you will never cultivate a happy marriage.
Reflect and Respond
What Christmas tradition in your home is sure to bring you closer together as a couple? If you can’t think of one, what tradition can you start this year?
Go ahead, tell us in the comments.