"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit." Matthew 1:18
I can’t even begin to imagine how this story unfolded for Joseph. He truly feels like a character in this narrative that gets the shaft. If you are a middle child, you know what I'm saying (respectfully, Mom and Dad). But there's so much more to Joseph than a yes man who's cool with his bride having someone else's son. This was a man whose world was flipped upside down.
Mary and Joseph’s relationship wasn’t engagement as we know it today. It was less parties and countdowns and white dresses and more official contracts with witnesses. Their engagement could only be ended by divorce. In light of this culture, I can't imagine how disappointed he felt when he found out that his bride-to-be was having a child—a child that wasn't his.
Mary’s pregnancy brought shame and dishonor upon both Joseph AND his family. In this day, he legally could have had her stoned for the offense. And this wasn’t just a cheating situation—which would be hard enough. This was something no one else could understand.
No other guy could say, "Man, I'm going through a hard time. Might have to leave her. I can't believe my bride-to-be's baby daddy is the Holy Spirit." Like, can you imagine the prayer request time in Joseph's Bible study? "Y'all pray for my fiancé. She is pregnant, but no worries, she's actually a virgin. She's going to have the Redeemer." Joseph was totally alone in this.
I obviously can’t relate. If you think you can, wellness check. But I can relate to that feeling: no one else understands. It's a lie from the enemy that I have listened to over and over this year.
“You are so alone. Your friends don’t understand. Even your husband can’t put himself in your shoes. No need to tell this person because they’ll never get it. Nobody gets it. Nobody will ever relate to this.”
But you know what’s true about Joseph’s situation and my situation and your situation? That we are never alone, because He is with us.
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. Matthew 1:20–25
One of the best things about the gift of Immanuel is that it is not merely some Pinterest graphic of better days to come. It is not some aloof person saying, "It'll all be okay." It is not our southern habit of sprinkling our struggles with some positivity.
Jesus knows our pain like nobody else does. Jesus was embarrassed and betrayed and lonely and grief-stricken, more so than Joseph and definitely more so than us. And He has not left us to endure the darkness and the emptiness alone, because He is with us.
Johann Christoph Arnold said, “In our lives we may be tested in ways we cannot even imagine. Yet we can be certain Christ has shared our torment, and worse. He sweated drops of blood and was totally forsaken. He died, and descended into hell. But by overcoming death he took away all our reasons for fear, forever.”
There is no one who understands your pain, your loneliness, and your struggles like Jesus does. No one. He knows the hairs on your head and the desires of your heart. He knows your fears and your longings. He knows your sin and your shame. And He died for all of it.
Immanuel came for Joseph, feeling humiliated and betrayed. Immanuel came for you, in the hours when you feel so alone. Immanuel came for the grief-stricken and the hurting and the ashamed and the hearts feeling completely empty this season. For all of us this Advent, Immanuel has come.
Praise the Lord that we are never alone. He is with us!