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 NIV)
I don’t think we talk enough about Joseph’s sacrifice in the Christmas story. Joseph was a man who “was faithful to the law” (Matthew 1:19). He was pledged to be married to Mary, but when he found out that she was pregnant “through the Holy Spirit,” he “did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (vv.18-19). As a devout man, Joseph couldn’t bear to break God’s law but he also couldn’t bear to see Mary punished by stoning, according to the law. So when the angel appeared to him in a dream and explained God’s plan, Joseph obeyed God “and took Mary home as his wife” (v.24). Can you imagine the weight on Joseph’s shoulders as he took on this immense role of marrying a pregnant woman, who wasn’t even carrying his child, to not only spare her death, but to also become an earthly father to her child?
We live in an age where we don’t see the big picture because we’ve grown accustomed to women having children out of wedlock and men becoming stepfathers to their children, but this wasn’t the case thousands of years ago. It was so unacceptable that it was punishable by death. And Joseph marrying such a woman meant losing his reputation. In the Gospel of John, the religious leaders questioned who Jesus’ father was and indirectly called Him an illegitimate child (John 8:41). That is why Joseph’s sacrifice cannot go unnoticed. He had nothing to lose, but everything to gain. He is our perfect example of what it means to follow Jesus. We may lose our reputation on earth, but our faithfulness will be greatly rewarded in heaven.