20 March 2017

Matthew 1:18-25

“Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.” (v. 19)

Psalm: Psalm 89:26-36


How do you solve a problem like Maria? Well, Joseph thought he knew what to do. He didn't want to harm Mary or cause her more disgrace than was necessary - but nevertheless, he couldn't very well father another man's child, could he? What a way to start out on married life - with all notions of purity and loyalty destroyed before any proper union could begin to be formed between them. So Joseph resolved to move on with his life - perhaps try again for another bride and let Mary go her own way and face the consequences of her untimely pregnancy. What choice did he have? What else could he do?

But it turns out that there was another way, another possibility, another future - if only he could see it. But (like so many of us) he required some help in seeing: he needed divine intervention to open his eyes to reality and possibility. And so it was that, literally overnight, the world became a different place for Joseph and his bride-to-be.

So many of us can feel trapped by our circumstances - whether it be finance, work, relationships, poor mental health, lack of opportunity … or any number of our own personal constraints. "What else could I do?" we cry to justify the decisions we wish we didn't have to make. The challenges we face can box us in and shorten our eyesight: when you're so busy wrestling with the immediate issues, it's can feel impossible to lift your eyes to see the bigger picture.

So what does it take to change someone's mind, to offer a different perspective? For Joseph in today's passage, two things seem central:

  • the removal of fear (verse 20)
  • the possibility of an alternative picture of the future

For Joseph - and, I think, for us too - even though we may feel trapped and limited by what we face, there remains the possibility of a different future. God shows up, offers transformation in the most unlikely of circumstances, and guides us to an alternative path. This alternative future might not solve all our problems - it may even create a few of its own - but it comes with the assurance that God travels with us and that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

To Ponder

  • Do you ever think, 'I don't have a choice, what else could I do?' How true are those words in your circumstances?
  • Do you feel trapped or limited by any circumstances in your life? If so, who or what might help you to imagine an alternative future?
  • What role might you play in helping others to break out and see the bigger picture? 

Bible notes author

Anna Drew

Anna Drew is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Canterbury. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Daily Service and Prayer for the Day and a freelance writer on faith issues.