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Virginity and the Virgin Birth Part 1

This week Lawson paints a picture of what it must have been like to be Joseph learning about and then dealing with the reality that Mary was pregnant before they were married. In this two part article adapted from a sermon Lawson looks at the significance of marriage and virginity. -Editor.

Think how Joseph must have felt, when he first realized that Mary was expecting a baby. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary and announced to her that she would be blessed to be the mother of the Lord, she did not tell Joseph, but “arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste” (Luke 1:39), to share this wonderful news with Elizabeth, her cousin. Elizabeth was the one person in the world she could share such astonishing news with. Since she was to be the mother of John the Baptist, who would prepare the Lord’s way, she knew that the birth of the Lord Himself was imminent, and must have been wondering who would be so highly favored as to be His mother. Anyone else, probably including Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, could not have believed her. So Mary went straight to Elizabeth, and remained with her about three months, almost to the time when John was born.

Perhaps, by the time she came home to Nazareth, it was evident that she was expecting. In those days, the custom was for a couple to be betrothed or engaged for about a year before they were married. The commitment of betrothal was taken very seriously. Violating it was regarded as committing adultery. To Joseph, it probably seemed completely out of character that Mary should have been unfaithful, but what else could he think? He must have been very sad, for Mary as well as for their intended marriage. We can imagine him puzzling and puzzling over what could have happened to her that she would do such a thing.

He had the right, under existing custom and law, to have taken her into the public square before the elders, proclaimed her unfaithfulness, and have her stoned to death, as a public example. But being a just man, he did not want to do this terrible thing. The only other course seemed to be to divorce her privately.

But while he was thinking about these things—no doubt very soon after he realized that his bride was expecting—

the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream by night, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. ‘And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:20-21).

How did Joseph feel then? It’s beyond comprehension, but surely awe and wonder; gratitude that he and his wife should have parts to play in this most wonderful event; humility and obedience before God; and also great relief for Mary, that she was still the innocent person he believed her to be, and whom he loved.

So, being aroused from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He made arrangements for the marriage to proceed at once, so that he could take his wife home where he could take care of her and protect her good name and the good name of the Child who was to be born. He did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

In this story, we see a high respect and reverence for marriage and virginity. There is an image of marriage apparently defiled, and then the hope of true marriage restored. The Lord came into the world to restore the hope of love truly conjugial. This love is at the center of our salvation, our eternal life and happiness. In marriage the greatest uses can be served, and so there is also the greatest potential for happiness. This love, its uses, and its delights from first to last, are what the Lord wants for each of us.

We see in this story how precious and beautiful a thing virginity is in preparation for marriage. Without it, the Lord could not have been born.

Lawson Smith

Lawson is very grateful to serve as pastor for the Kempton New Church and Kempton New Church School. Lawson considers his marriage to Shanon to be the greatest blessing of his life, and next is to have access to the guidance of the Heavenly Doctrine.