All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee. (Luke 2: 3-4)
In Matthew, we last saw Joseph in Bethlehem. In Luke, Mary was with Elizabeth. Matthews tells us that when Joseph awoke from the dream in which he was instructed to wed Mary, “he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him” and took Mary home as his wife. The text presupposes, I believe, that this took place in Bethlehem. Yet Luke tells us they ended up in Nazareth; for, as Mary’s pregnancy drew to a close, a census required them to travel to Bethlehem. So, were they married in Bethlehem or Nazareth? My reading of Scripture suggests that after spending three months at Ein Karem with Elizabeth, Mary returned to Nazareth, Joseph joined her, and they were married in Nazareth in a “hurry up” wedding.
I officiated at the wedding of our oldest daughter, Danielle, a couple of years ago. It was an exciting and emotional time. She invited us to join her in picking out flowers, planning the menu for the reception, and selecting her dress. Invitations, reservations, and a thousand other details went into planning of the wedding, most of which were carried out by my wife and daughter. I had the joy of writing the check! The night of rehearsal I was a wreck. I kept thinking back to the times when Danielle was little, and I would dance with her in my arms, or the time she told me I was her hero, or the way she said she would love me “form here to Jupiter and back again.” And now I was giving her away. I still get emotional thinking about it.
We can be sure that Mary and Joseph’s wedding did not take place the way anyone had planned. The original plans would have been canceled and a hasty wedding and reception put together. Guests would have understood why the wedding date was moved up. They would have believed that Joseph had taken advantage of Mary or that Mary and Joseph had been unable to control their passions. This would have been the gossip of the town and perhaps a source of embarrassment to Mary’s parents.
Yet Mary and Joseph had done nothing wrong. In fact, they were models of faithfulness and devotion to God. They were obedient, and their obedience came at great personal cost. Yet others could not understand this.
Have you ever done something that you felt God was calling you to do but caused others to question your motives, integrity, or actions? Or perhaps you’ve had people gossip about you. If so, you are in good company. This surely would have been a part of Mary and Joseph’s story.
The truth is, it is human nature to pass judgment on others, to share “juicy” gossip, and to assume the worst about others. Perhaps this story, and our won experiences, might lead us to recall the words of Jesus when he taught his followers to “take the log out of your own eye” before taking the splinter out of your neighbor’s eye. He taught them to “do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” And he told them, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Is it possible these words of Jesus were shaped in part by the way people whispered about his mother when was just a child?
Lord, help me not to judge others nor participate in gossip. And help me to forgive when others have questioned my motives, my actions, or my heart. Amen.