Olivia Dear Thames
Advent: December 11
"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."
I can’t even begin to imagine how this story unfolded for Joseph. He feels like a character in this narrative that gets a little glossed over. But there is more to Joseph than being a yes man who is just chilling in the Nativity scene. This is 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 gifts and white dresses and more official contracts with witnesses. It is hard to picture Joseph's feelings of disappointment, jealousy, and unfairness when he found out his bride-to-be was having a child that wasn’t his, especially because betrothal in this time could only be ended by official divorce.
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 really understand. After all, the Holy Spirit had never before impregnated someone’s fiance with the Savior. That was definitely a first.
I obviously can’t relate. I mean—who can? But I do know that feeling: no one else understands. In my darkest moments, this is the lie from the enemy that is so easy to believe.
“Your friends don’t understand. Even your amazing 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? God 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.
Immanuel literally means “God is with us”. 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. Immanuel has come. And God is with us.
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." Jesus knows our pain. Jesus was embarrassed and betrayed and lonely and grief-stricken, more so than Joseph and definitely more so than us. Jesus empathizes and understands. 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.”
The One who was born in a manger and nailed to a cross has come. The One who Herod was after and who Judas betrayed has come. The One who was beaten and mocked and scorn in our place has home. And He is coming again.
He is coming again to redeem and renew. He is coming again to save and set free. He is coming again to wipe every tear and heal every wound. There will be a day with no more dark moments and no more emptiness and no more betrayal and no more pain.
But in the meantime, as we wait for that glorious day to arrive, we can find strength for today because the advent of Immanuel means that God is with us.