His fiancée was pregnant and it wasn’t his doing. We can see how much this must have hurt him when we understand that, though he had every right to have Mary stoned to death, he opted to divorce her quietly and out of public view. He loved Mary. To see her pregnant by someone else must have hurt tremendously.
His decision to divorce is also an indication of his love for God–for no righteous man could rightfully marry such an “unclean” woman and still be considered a man of God. But then the angel Gabriel fills Joseph in on the plan and Joseph faithfully takes Mary as his wife just as God requests; even though he too, along with Mary, will face the scorn of the community. Joseph loved God.
Throughout the story of Christmas Joseph, time and again, is faithful to carry out the will of God. He takes Mary as his wife, he moves his wife and young child to Egypt and then later to Nazareth (where Jesus became known as a “Nazarene”).
It’s striking to me the parallels between Joseph’s treatment of Mary and Jesus’ actions toward the woman caught in adultery, as well as his other response toward women. Both responded with compassion and concern for the woman above and before the letter of the law. Both raised the women around them up above what the surrounding culture practiced and, perhaps, what was thought to be appropriate. Perhaps both were looking to the God of the law and understood the law of love as above and before any other law. Perhaps Jesus, as a young boy, learned a thing or two from his father, Joseph.
Nicely done, Joseph.