“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” - Matthew 1:24
In the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey is a young dreamer who lives in the sleepy little town of
Bedford Falls. He oversees a small building and loan that his father founded. George hates the building and loan business, but after his father dies and his younger brother moves out of the area, he feels obligated to put his personal dreams on hold to keep the family business running. He eventually marries a beautiful girl named Mary, and they have four cute kids: two boys and two girls. Despite his unexpected change of course, George is on top of the world. But suddenly his world comes crashing down one day when his coworker misplaces $8,000, and a warrant is issued for George’s arrest.
All seems hopeless for George—just as it must have seemed hopeless for Joseph of Nazareth in the first chapter of Matthew. We read in Matthew 1:18 that Mary and Joseph were pledged to be married. More specifically, they were betrothed. That means they were legally “husband and wife,” but Mary still lived with her parents and hadn’t consummated her marriage with Joseph. Although
Nazareth was a podunk town located in the dull region of Galilee, Joseph must have been on top of the world. The wedding ceremony was at hand, and he would soon walk into his own home hand-in-hand with the prettiest girl in town.
But suddenly his world came crashing down when he discovered that his beautiful Mary was pregnant. God’s word doesn’t tell us how Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy. Perhaps she told him right away, or perhaps her bulging waistline revealed her secret. But regardless of how he learned of Mary’s pregnancy, it’s clear from Matthew 1:19 that Joseph had made up his mind: He was going to divorce Mary. The only logical explanation for her pregnancy was that she had committed adultery. Although Joseph was devastated, he had decided that divorcing her quietly was the most loving and honorable thing for him to do.
But a visit from an angel turned Joseph’s world upside down, just as it did for George Bailey. According to Matthew 1:20-21, “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”
Can you imagine how thunderstruck Joseph must have been by the angel’s words? What the angel said was crazy. It defied all logic. Virgins don’t get pregnant. Teenage girls don’t give birth to “God with us.” And it made no sense that he—a blue collar, living paycheck-to-paycheck carpenter—would be the earthly father of the promised Messiah.
But Joseph believed the word of the Lord and obeyed God anyway. After the dream ended, he got up and did what the angel had commanded him to do. He “took Mary home as his wife,” but he didn’t consummate the marriage until after Jesus was born. Righteous man that he was, Joseph put God’s needs, Mary’s needs and his miraculously-conceived son’s needs above his own personal needs. Despite the hardships to come and the stigma that he would certainly bear for having married a pregnant woman, Joseph obeyed the word of the Lord.
As I consider the wonderful example of Joseph, three life lessons come to mind. For starters, Lesson #1: Good things can come out of Victorville. In Jesus’ day,
Nazarethhad a bad reputation. Even one of Jesus’ apostles asked the question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Similarly, many people ask, “Can anything good come out of Victorville? Can anything good come out of Adelanto? Can anything good come out of Apple Valley?” And God answers, “Absolutely!” Just as good things came out of Nazareth when God was involved, good things can come out of the when we, like Joseph, walk in humble obedience to the Lord’s commands. Victor Valley
Lesson #2: Maintaining a good reputation with God takes precedence over maintaining a good reputation with man. God has called us to live lives of integrity and, as much as possible, to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. But there are times when choosing to obey God will tarnish our reputation with people. So be it! Just like Joseph, we must always choose to do what is right in God’s eyes. We must obey God, not man. Ultimately, our highest aim as Christians is to be God-pleasers, not man-pleasers.
Lesson #3: Live and celebrate the wonderful life that God created you to live—a life of loving, trusting and obeying Him. The bridge is a pivotal place in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The first time George stands on the bridge, he is at the end of his rope, feeling completely hopeless. At the end of the movie, he’s back on the bridge but has a new lease on life. What changed? He is still $8,000 in the hole. He still has a warrant out for his arrest. His car is still smashed against a tree. So what changed? His perspective changed. God opened George’s eyes to see the glorious truth that—despite his hardships and difficulties--God had blessed him with a wonderful life. The same was true of Joseph, and the same is true of you. My friends, despite your problems, ask God to open your eyes so that you can see what He sees: Your God-given life is, in a word, “wonderful.”
Dane Davis is the Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.fccvv.com, and join us this Christmas season Sundays at 10 a.m. for our special series: "Simply Christmas."