Joseph really doesn't get enough credit for being the father of Jesus. Yes, yes, I know - he didn't actually donate any sperm to the cause, but his role is no less heroic for that. And it's easy for us to overlook the way that Joseph's love for Mary mimics God's own love for us. We totally miss the message that God is sending us through this young man.
As you remember, Joseph and Mary were engaged to be wed when Mary turned up pregnant, and Joseph knew it wasn't his. He knew he hadn't slept with Mary, and he was heartbroken. But he didn't want to shame her, so he decided - Matthew tells us - to 'divorce her quietly.' He was just going to whisper a few things and walk away, or maybe not even whisper anything at all; just walk away. He wasn't going to make a scene. He wasn't going to cast her out. He wasn't going to do anything that might make a spectacle of it. He was just going to get out, probably scuffing his feet in the dirt along the way.
Because Joseph still loved Mary. Even when he was looking at her pregnant belly and knowing he didn't have a role in this, he loved her. He was not angry; he was heartbroken. It wasn't his wedding vow that was broken; it was his very love. It was devastating. And quiet seemed to be the best way to deal with it.
But he doesn't.
God sends an angel to tell him not to do it. God sends an angel to remind him of his love for this woman and how pure her heart is, how legitimate her intentions toward him. God speaks to Joseph and calls back not only his love for Mary, but her love for him and just the magic they make when the two of them are together, and he convinces Joseph not to leave - quietly or otherwise.
And isn't this God's relationship with us?
God's wrath gets a bad rap; most of us spend our lives afraid of the heavy hand of God coming down on us. We read about the wars and famines and destructions in the Old Testament, about the entire nations He wiped out, about all of creation drowned in the flood. But the truth is that there are a million (at least) times in human history where God could have simply...walked away.
There are countless times where He could have divorced us quietly. Where He could have just turned around, hung His head, kicked His feet in the dust and walked away, heartbroken. Because that's what it would have been - heartbreak. We're so busy being consumed with the idea of God's anger that we forget that God is more often heartbroken than anything. It's not His covenant we have broken; it is His very love. And so many times, He could have chosen to just quietly walked away.
But He didn't.
But He doesn't.
At the very moment when He's tempted to, God remembers His love for us. And our love for Him. He remembers that our intentions toward Him are pure, even when our execution is lacking. He remembers the magic that we make when we are joined together with Him, and Him with us, and He chooses to stay. Like Joseph with a pregnant Mary, God looks at all of the potential for something holy welling up inside of us, and He chooses to stay. Like Joseph with a Mary who looks for everything like she's broken the covenant, God reaffirms His covenant with us. Like Joseph with Mary who could have been quietly divorced, God takes us and weds us anyway and loves us out loud, for all the world to see.
For all that Joseph can teach us about God's love for us, he sure doesn't get a lot of attention. But maybe he should.