If you’re like most people, whenever you think of Joseph and Mary, they’re usually just figurines in a nativity set or characters on the front of a Christmas card. Our images of Joseph and Mary have become perpetually linked to the story of Jesus’ birth. While the birth of Christ is a moment of immeasurable significance, if we only view Mary and Joseph through the lens of that one night, we miss out on some valuable lessons they have to teach us about marriage.
As a guy who writes and speaks about marriage (alongside my amazing wife Ashley), I’ve always been fascinated by the marriage of Joseph and Mary. Their relationship is captured in the first few chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Their example proves to be one of the healthiest examples of marriage recorded anywhere in the Bible. I believe if we stop seeing them as artificial plastic figures in Christmas decorations and see them in light of their faith, humanity, and love for God and each other, our lives and marriages will be impacted as a result.
Here are a few positive lessons about marriage we can see from the Biblical accounts of Joseph and Mary’s story:
1. They worked for unity in their marriage
From the time they were married, Joseph and Mary were always shown together in the Bible. They were together on the journey to Bethlehem, in the stable where Jesus was born, when they dedicated baby Jesus at the temple, as refugees escaping to Egypt, as they returned to Israel, when they lost Jesus in Jerusalem when he was 12-years-old, and together when they found him. Like Joseph and Mary, your marriage will be stronger when you choose to face everything together with your spouse.
2. They trusted God, and they trusted each other
Before they were married, God sent an angel to appear to both Joseph and Mary with the message. After they were married, on the two occasions when God needed to send an important message, he only told Joseph. Joseph had to trust God, and Mary had to trust her husband. In marriage, sometimes God might give a vision to one spouse, and you need to trust each other enough to both accept the call. Mary trusted God to give birth to the Messiah even though she was a virgin. Joseph trusted God to marry a woman who was pregnant and to start their marriage as a stepfather. Like Joseph and Mary, your marriage will be able to overcome any obstacle when you choose to have unshakeable faith in God and your spouse.
3. They faced hardships with faith and perseverance
Mary and Joseph were in the Center of God’s Will and yet nearly every part of their lives were difficult. They walked through poverty, being socially outcast due to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, giving birth in a barn, having to move with a newborn to a foreign country to escape the tyrant King Herod who wanted to kill them, having to relocate to a new community once they moved back to their home country, and other obstacles as well. Their marriage was strong because they faced every challenge together, and they trusted God completely. Like Joseph and Mary, your marriage won’t be defined by the size of your struggles but by the size of your commitment to God and each other.
There’s much about Joseph and Mary’s marriage and family that we don’t know. We do know (according to the Bible) that Joseph and Mary had more children after the birth of Jesus. In particular, Jesus’ brother James became a great leader within the early church and wrote the book of James in the New Testament. We know that Joseph was a carpenter by trade, and Jesus followed in Joseph’s footsteps to work in carpentry as well. We also know that Joseph most likely died young, because Mary was a widow by the time of Jesus’ recorded ministry, which began when Jesus was around thirty-years-old. While there are many details of Joseph and Mary’s lives that we don’t know, we know enough to learn some powerful lessons from their examples.
Next time you see Joseph and Mary depicted in Christmas decorations, pause and reflect on the fact that these were real people with real faith who had a real marriage. I’d encourage you to learn from their example. Because, just like God called Mary and Joseph to do a very special work, God is calling you and your spouse to an important mission as well. Like Joseph and Mary, you and your spouse will only be able to fulfill your purpose for life and marriage when you choose to have faith in God and each other.
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