As we prepare for the Christmas season a myriad of things flood our minds. It’s a time to focus on Jesus’ birth; the “reason for the season!” It’s a time to enjoy the gifts God has given us, and to give and serve others. It’s a time for precious memories with family and friends. It’s a time to allow the old year to come to a close, to pass away, and to welcome a new year and a fresh start. We consider love and joy, peace on earth and good will toward men. Charity and cheerfulness become our daily mantra as we allow ourselves to be swept up in the joyous celebration that is Christmas.
When we read the birth story of Jesus Christ, however, we may miss something that is often overlooked: forgiveness and mercy. I’m not talking about the Jesus-became-born-of-man-to-save-us-from-sin forgiveness and mercy. I’m talking about an unknown and unassuming man named Joseph who was brought from obscurity to be the protector of the One who holds the universe and the entire human race together (Heb. 1:3).
In a world longing not for justice, but revenge so badly that we can taste it, comes a man named Joseph. In the book of Matthew we find that he was a man who was just. The character of Joseph was known to God, and in his hands God placed the most valuable treasure the universe had ever seen, the infant Jesus. Their time was not terribly different from our own. Political unrest and violence was commonplace. People were concerned with their own well-being and economic status. Reputation and public opinion ruled the day. In this unstable environment so similar to our own an innocent virgin girl named Mary is betrothed to a just and upright man named Joseph. Suddenly, Joseph’s world is shattered when he is informed that his soon-to-be bride is already with child. Imagine the shame, the embarrassment, the disgust, the sense of betrayal, the heartbreak all wrapped into this crushing discovery. An innocent, godly man has his heart decimated by his fiancee.
Now we all know how the story goes: an angel of the Lord visits Joseph in a dream and explains that this child is to be the Messiah and will save His people from their sins. What we sometimes read over is how Joseph was such a just man that we was resolved to divorce Mary quietly so as not to put her to shame. This man was such a just man that even in this perceived blow of betrayal he had been dealt he still desired no harm to come to Mary. What an unheard of concept in our wordl today: honest-to-goodness forgiveness and mercy.
Joseph shows us what true godliness looks like. One who draws near to God will be one who does not desire harm and revenge, but one who desires love and unity no matter the circumstances. If anyone has a reason to desires harm and revenge to come to those who have wronged them, it is God. We all have hearts that worship ourselves and cling to our own selfish desires. We daily rob God of his glory and remain so caught up in ourselves that we don’t even realize it or care to realize it. Even in our constant attack on the glory of God he remains faithful to us, not desiring any of us should perish but that we all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
So when our pride wells up in us and our egos become beaten or bruised, let us not desire harm and evil revenge against others but do as Jesus’ heavenly and earthly fathers both did and offer forgiveness and mercy, and seek love, unity, and reconciliation. Joseph was so ruled by love that he did not desire harm to come to Mary. Praise the Lord that he could show forgiveness and mercy because he would have missed the greatest blessing the world has ever seen in the form of the Song of God, Jesus Christ!