3 Marriage Lessons From Mary and Joseph’s Example

When I was a teenager, I got to play the role of Mary in my church’s Christmas musical. My mother will tell you that it’s because I was a good actress, but I’ll tell you that I got the role because my mother was directing the play. She cast my boyfriend as Joseph, which also seemed an unlikely coincidence, but it did make the acting a little easier. It felt strange–and pretty high-pressured–to pretend to be the mother of Jesus, and it was unbelievable to think that I was actually a few years older than she was when God chose to cast her as the actual mother of Jesus.

Can you imagine receiving that message?!

“… you have found favor with God… you will conceive in your womb and bear a son… you shall name Him Jesus… He will be called the Son of the Most High… His kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:30-33 NASB)

And Joseph received quite a message, too!

“… do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife… the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit… you shall call His name Jesus… He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

Both of these messages must have been really difficult to comprehend and, even more so, to believe. But even if Mary and Joseph battled doubt, they chose to believe that God had spoken to them, and they responded in faith and action. And their beautiful responses, both as individuals and as a couple, can serve as a powerful testimony and example to us in our own marriages.

Do not be afraid.

The first thing the angel said to both Mary and Joseph was, “Do not be afraid.” Clearly, these were encounters that warranted some fear and disbelief, but God’s messenger assured each of them from the start that these were good tidings sent to them straight from Yahweh Himself. And so they needn’t be afraid. This marked their lives because, time after time, as they parented Jesus, they had to act in great faith. I can imagine Mary and Joseph both replaying the angel’s “Do not be afraid” message over and over in their minds each time God gave them new instruction.

God gives us the same message today. He tells us not to be afraid. Just as with Mary and Joseph, we might have legitimate reasons to be fearful, but our connection to God is the defense against fear. In marriages where both the husband and wife believe we are hearing from the Lord, we can take comfort in knowing that if God is with us, we truly do not need to fear.

The Lord is with you.

The key to Mary and Joseph not being afraid was the fact that the Lord was with them. Even before He was literally/physically with them in the form of the Christ Child, God was present with them. And He continued to be present even after the Son was crucified, buried, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. Mary and Joseph had to have faith in God’s promised presence just as much as we do today. We cannot always see or touch Him, but we know that He is with us.

We Christians rejoice particularly around Christmastime about Emmanuel–“God with us.” But I hope that we remember that He is Emmanuel throughout every single day of the year. And although we might not be able to see Him in the flesh as Mary and Joseph did, we can recognize that He is still very much in the midst of our lives.

Listen for and follow God’s instruction.

Mary and Joseph received specific instructions from God. He told Joseph to proceed in marriage to Mary, although he could have divorced her (and no one would have blamed him). God also told Joseph to keep Mary a virgin until after the Baby was born. And He told both of them what the Baby’s name was to be. He told them when to travel, where to go, and which route to take. And with each instruction from God, Mary and Joseph listened, trusted, and obeyed.

It would be wonderful if we and our husbands could receive such clear and specific instructions from the Lord, wouldn’t it? An occasional visit from an angel telling us what to do would be very, very helpful, right? While we might never experience this (Or have we?), we can always be actively listening for God’s voice in our marriages. We have a lot of other voices to tune out all around us, but if we ask God to help us discern His voice from all the others, I believe He will honor that. And we can come to recognize His voice just as much as Mary and Joseph recognized the sound of Jesus’ voice.

None of us can even begin to imagine what it must’ve been like to be Mary, the mother of Jesus. I pretended to be her on a church stage in 1992, but I had no idea what it was like to be visited by an angel, to be pregnant, or even to marry Joseph (since my co-star and I eventually broke up). We can, however, take what we know of Mary (the “favored one”) and Joseph (“a righteous man”) and how they walked together with God and apply it to our own marriages today.

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