“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, 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
Joseph was afraid.
Earlier that day Mary, his betrothed, had come to him and given him the news that she was pregnant. Under the best of circumstances that would have been sobering news to hear. If he had been the father that would have been potentially embarrassing because he’d always been known in the community as a responsible and righteous man, and this would have been a departure from the moral integrity he’d always tried to adhere to. But it would have been recoverable. They were, after all betrothed. They could just get married and everything would be all right. But Joseph was not the father.
Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant with someone else’s child!
Now running through Joseph’s mind are thoughts of confusion, anger, grief and betrayal. “How could she do this to me? How could she give herself to another man? How could she throw away the future they’d had together? How could she ever think he’d believe that ridiculous explanation she’d tried to tell him? With child by the Holy Spirit? Give me a break. Does she think I’m a fool?”
Finally his thoughts and emotions settle enough for him to decide what he’s going to do. He’ll call off the marriage, as quietly as he can, and let her go. With those thoughts he drifts off fitfully to sleep.
But his sleep isn’t peaceful like we’d normally expect it to be. An angel comes to him in a dream and says, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She’s told you the truth. She really is pregnant by the Holy Ghost. She will bear a son. You will name him Jesus, and he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew doesn’t say that Joseph’s fears had all gone away. I imagine that some were probably still lingering even as he chooses to believe the angel and take Mary as his wife. What’s important is that Joseph chose to act in accordance to faith and not in accordance to fear. Because of his decision to choose faith, and not fear, Joseph had the blessing and privilege to be husband to Mary and father to the Son of God.
When we choose faith over fear it opens doors for us as well. The question is, are we willing to listen to God, turn a deaf ear to our fears, and live by faith?