“Now the birth of Jesus Christ a 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. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 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 1:18-25
As a Jewish man, finding out that the woman who is soon to be your wife is expecting a child places a huge burden of shame on you. Joseph was a member of a people group that was expected to mirror the image of God and live their lives fully devoted to Him. When reading this story it looks like Joseph had two options: He could publicly humiliate and shame Mary, or he could quietly call off their marriage.
Joseph was within his rights as a Jewish man to demand harsh justice, but he demonstrated a beautiful example of grace. Being a righteous man, he chose to not disgrace Mary, but rather to quietly end their marriage. We often struggle with letting go of things that we feel we are entitled to. Joseph could have chosen to keep his right to not be shamed by Mary, but rather, as a servant of the Lord, he gave up that right.
When we accept Christ we become servants of the Lord and give up certain rights. 1 Corinthians 9:17-18 states, “If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.” Following Jesus means making sacrifices. Since before He came to earth people have had to make sacrifices for him. When the angel appeared to Joseph he chose not to doubt but rather stepped out in faith, relinquished his rights and trusted in the promise the Lord had given him.
The holidays are a very busy time and we often put time with the Jesus on the back burner. This holiday season take some time to reflect and ask the Lord if there are any rights you are holding on to that are keeping you from experiencing the fullness of the Gospel. Ask the Lord what promises He has for you and seek His will in that. Thirty-three years later the promise of the baby boy Joseph gave up his rights for would relinquish his rights for all mankind by taking our sin and dying on the cross.