And now as time goes on Joseph becomes troubled. He broods much, sore troubled. Something seems wrong, grievously wrong. The evidence seems unmistakable.
He was a good man, rigid in his sense of right, stern in his sense of duty, having withal a certain kindliness of spirit. He would not make trouble. He would not make matters worse by any open action. But certainly something must be done; so his thoughts ran on. He was sore troubled.
And poor Mary goes quietly on her way. She senses all, though no word may have been spoken. She feels keenly, how keenly no words can say. Yet she stays her heart on Him whose bondmaid she is.
This is a bit of that voluntary slavery she had accepted. She would be true. Her Lord knew all. He could be trusted to make things right. He would be trusted to do it in His own time and way.
Do some strains of her “magnificat” sing themselves now that the shadows of the valley are upon her? I think likely, in soft, subdued, sometimes whispered tones.
Then Joseph has a dream. The angel of God comes now to him. And he learns Mary’s wondrous holy secret.
And, as he wakes, instantly he knows that this is no passing vagary of sleep, but a dream with a meaning, a dream that is a message.
And a great sense of relief blends with a sense of being trusted with a great responsibility. Mary is the pure maiden he had thought, and more, so much more than he could have dreamed; she is God’s chosen one.
The time is come. The nation’s deliverance is at hand. And he is to have a share. He is to do the part a man may do in the great events being worked out; only the incidental part; yet what a privilege to have even that part.
And he accepts gratefully the sacred trust committed to him of being the friend of the holy woman through whom God is working out His great plan. Friendship never had holier, sweeter task.
The incident reveals the difficulties—shall I reverently say God’s difficulties?—in working the plan out in its true human setting; the human difficulties in working out the divine plan.
Naturally the child must be born in technical wedlock. The proper human conventions demand that absolutely. Yet no human conventionalities must be allowed to mar the great plan of the new man coming in a new distinctive way. The whole plan of God for a race centered in that.
Why was Joseph not told earlier? Would
it not have saved Mary much—the word “needless” comes—needless pain of spirit? But we remember there is nothing needless with God, especially when it concerns pain for any child of His.
Why not? I think simply because he could not have taken it in. What had been accepted by Mary would have seemed utterly impossible to him, wholly outside the range of his imagination.
But what troubled him took great hold of him. His whole inner being was stirred. There came a shock. And it worked changes within not otherwise reachable. When that dream came it was to a man strangely wrought upon in his spirit, open now, susceptible.
That was a wondrous morning for Mary, that morning of waking after Joseph’s dream. As he came to her home, his face instantly told her of the change in him.
She had a friend now in her betrothed. She would have a true understanding friend in her husband. He had accepted his part of the sacred trust God had been true.
All this, one glance into Joseph’s face told her sensitive spirit And her heart leaped anew even as when Elizabeth’s salutation drew out the wondrous song. But there is a new tenderness of gratitude in this song of her heart, this new unwritten magnificat
And the arrangements are quickly made, and the betrothal is perfected into marriage. And Joseph begins his holy task, such as man never had before, nor since. The hearth-fire of a new home is kindled, that most sacred of all human altar-fires. That sweet word “home” was never more sweet nor hallowed.
“The wind from out the west is blowing;
The homeward wandering cows are lowing;
Dark grow the pine woods, dark and drear—
The woods that bring the sunset near.
“When o’er wide seas the sun declines,
Far off its fading glory shines,—
Far off, sublime, and full of fear,—
The pine woods bring the sunset near.
“This house that looks to east, to west,
This, dear one, is our home, our rest;
Yonder the stormy sea, and here
The woods that bring the sunset near.” (Richard Watson Gilder.)
And that word husband took on a new fineness of meaning as Joseph became the friend and protector of the woman whom God had chosen to bring to the birth His own Only-begotten.
And the word friend was seen in its fine holy meaning in the new peculiar relationship of those holy months. So the days grow on. They grow in a new tender richness to Mary now. This friendship of her husband means much to her.