Advent Devotional Day 23: “Bearing Our Guilt and Shame”

During the month of December, I’ve prepared a series of daily devotionals to help my church get ready for and celebrate Christmas. I created a booklet (if you’d like a copy, let me know), but I’ll also post devotionals each day on my blog.

Devotional Text: Matthew 1:19

What does it mean when Matthew tells us that Joseph, “being a righteous man and unwilling to expose [Mary] to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.”

I understand that Joseph wanted to spare Mary both her life and public humiliation, but how would annulling his marriage help with this? Even if he “dismissed her quietly,” the conspicuous fact that Mary was pregnant would become more and more apparent. And someone was the father! Wouldn’t people put two and two together and assume that Mary slept with someone else, and that Joseph, in his justifiable anger and hurt, divorced her for this reason?

Not according to Adam Hamilton in his book The Journey. By keeping quiet about the reasons for the divorce—rather than loudly accusing Mary of infidelity, as most men would do—people would assume that Joseph himself slept with Mary. By divorcing her and letting people believe that he was the father, Joseph would bear the shame, not Mary. Meanwhile, by divorcing Mary, Joseph believed he was giving the “real” father the chance to do the right thing and take Mary as his wife.[1]

So out of great compassion, Joseph was willing to let people think that he was an irresponsible jerk. He was willing to bear the shame and guilt of someone else’s sin—so far as he knew—for the sake of love.

Who does that remind you of?

Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all of your sins—past, present, and future—on the cross. Whenever we confess and repent of our sins, we can be confident that God will forgive us. As John says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:19). Spend time confessing and repenting of your sins. As you do so, be confident that God has forgiven you!

1. Adam Hamilton, The Journey (Nashville: Abingdon, 2011), 44.

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