Yes, there was the first agony of thinking she had been unfaithful. His Mary, beloved, longed-for, waited-for. She had not waited for him? Could she really have done this thing? His desire to shield her from public shame speaks of his love for her and his integrity. Yes, Joseph was a good man. And what a relief it must have been to know she had told him the truth. He could marry her, knowing her to be faithful.
But that was only the first of Joseph’s burdens. As he cared for her on that long walk to Bethlehem, as he ran from door to door, pounding, demanding, begging for a place to stay, as he lowered her onto the hard earth and held her as she screamed, was he thinking, this is not my child?
He was first to hold God in his arms. He cut the cord that bound this child to his wife, this child that was not his child. He wiped clean the blood, swaddled the tiny infant in the only cloths he could find, handed the child to its mother and watched. What was it like to see the bond between them, to watch her radiant face, to know the babe was hers, but not his? Her firstborn son the son of God?
God or not, this is no easy way to begin a marriage. This is no small weight for any father to carry. Instead of sharing the birth of their first child, a child they created together in their love, he became the father of someone else’s child. And not just any someone else. Someone perfect. I think we cannot dismiss this thought just because the father of the child was God, just because Mary was still a virgin.
The holy family was a blended family. Jesus had a step-father. It feels blasphemous to say so, but it also feels incredibly hopeful.
We don’t know much about Joseph except that he was there. He stayed, he provided, he watched over his little family. He gave Mary and her baby a home, and he raised that baby as his own son. He took him to the temple. He taught him his trade. He gave him brothers. Staying was surely no easy task, especially at the beginning.
That night of Joseph’s first agony, an angel came and said, “Do not fear.” Joseph, do not fear to take Mary as your wife. Joseph, do not fear that the child is not your son. Joseph, do not fear that you are not enough for them. God will be enough for you, always. God will be your peace.
How many times are we asked to carry burdens of someone else’s making? How often must we step into a hard thing that is not our own? No, this blended family did not come about through sin, but it was blended just the same. And I love this. I love that Joseph was asked to love a child that was not his, to walk Mary into motherhood before he even knew her as his wife. I love that Joseph was a step-dad before he was even a husband. And God looked on this and blessed this and gave Joseph everything he needed to be the father to His Son. I’m in awe at the wonder of this.
Be at peace, all you burden-bearers. God has appointed you to walk alongside, to stand with, to provide for His beloved. Stay. Be present. What you do for these, you do for Him. He sees you, He knows what you need, and He will provide.