Speaking to the Soul – December 21

A short reading and prayer for today

Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
Matthew 1:19 NLT

At the centre of the account of Jesus’ birth is a man about whom we know very little. Joseph was the legal father of Jesus and Matthew’s gospel begins with Jesus’ family line through Joseph. But after the birth of Jesus we meet Joseph on only one occasion. That was when the family went for a Passover visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old. We get the distinct impression that Mary was a widow by the time Jesus’ public ministry began. One verse in the New Testament tells us that Joseph was an artisan (Matthew 13.55) and it has been generally assumed that he was a carpenter but we can’t even be sure of that. He could have been a worker with iron or stone.

Although we know so very little about this extremely important man, we know about his character. He was described as a “righteous man”, which means that he was concerned to be obedient to the law. But that made life incredibly difficult for him because he was engaged to a woman who was pregnant. Engagement, at the time, was a much deeper commitment than it is these days and it could only be brought to an end by death or divorce. When a woman who was engaged became pregnant by another man the original penalty was death by stoning, but by this stage it had become divorce. So, according to the law, Joseph was obliged to divorce Mary. But he was clearly a gracious and sensitive man and although he was eager to obey the law, the last thing he wanted to do was to disgrace or humiliate Mary. He resolved that the best course of action was to divorce her quietly. An angel was just about to step in and change things, but I warm to the way in which Joseph set about handling this incredibly awkward situation.

Life is full of awkward situations and challenges. I thank God for the Josephs of this world who are good and honourable people and are always striving to do what is kindest and most honouring to God.


What do you learn from the way in which Joseph handled his predicament?


Loving Father, help me to live so close to you that I will always make wise and careful decisions. Amen