2019 Advent Devotional – Day 10


Matthew 1:19 – Joseph plans to divorce Mary

Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

Power - Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

The social norms of the biblical world provide important context to understanding Joseph’s situation. In contrast to our contemporary expectations of engagement, in biblical times betrothal was a binding arrangement and involved a financial agreement between the two families. It could not be broken lightly but only by the death of one of the betrothed or by divorce. At the same time, fidelity was greatly valued, and both the law and the customs of the time required a man to divorce an unfaithful wife or fiancée.

Joseph – “being a righteous man” – adhered to the law and so the only matter for him to decide when Mary’s pregnancy was made known, was whether he would divorce her publicly in court, or privately with only a small number of witnesses.

Mary’s future was bleak and seemingly settled. And yet, this was God’s plan; her pregnancy at this time, unmarried and a virgin, was of God’s choosing. The entire set of circumstances was set up to emphasize the uniqueness of Jesus as God’s Son.

This was a pivotal moment in God’s relationship with the world—the embodiment of God as human. The unexpected way in which this took place anticipated the way that Jesus’ ministry would reveal the extent to which what God values so often contradicts how society lives. It should not surprise us that Jesus’ life and ministry continually challenged established social norms.

For us, these events challenge us to recognize how far removed our society is from God’s way. So when we find ourselves fitting in seamlessly and coasting along with the crowd, perhaps rather than feeling content, we should stop and ask what part of God’s way are we missing.

Unexpected God,
Your way is not the way of our world and yet too often I pretend otherwise. I convince myself that I can go along with society and still be true to you. I spend more time worrying about what the world thinks than how you will view my actions. Forgive me God and open my heart to your challenging and confronting love. Strengthen me to step out from the crowd and shine your love into the margins of our world. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2020.

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