written by Dr. Jay Padgett
Oh, the joy of being young and in love! Of every joyous occasion of life, the engagement of a man and woman is near the top of the list. The racing heart, the sweating palms, the weakening knees, the stirring of butterflies in the stomach and the daydreaming that consumes a person in love. The boy pops the question and the girl answers without hesitation, “Yes!” They have chosen to spend their life together, forever.
Our understanding of engagements differs from that of first century betrothals. Betrothals were binding legal relationships that could only be broken by a decree of divorce. Betrothed men and women had all the legal rights of marriage except that they could not consummate the union. Though pre-marital privacy was allowed, betrothed individuals did not have a lot of “alone time.” The betrothal period lasted one year in which time the groom had to pay a price to the bride’s parents and these relationships were arranged by the parents.
In today’s terms Mary and Joseph were about to celebrate their first Christmas together. From a historical perspective it was the inaugural Christmas. It was just the two of them. Joseph, a just man, was fully committed to God and compassionate to “his betrothed.” Mary, a humble young woman, was faithful to her Lord and her husband to be.
Some of you reading this lesson are celebrating your first Christmas together. Like many young couples, you may be poor like Joseph and Mary but you are rich in love. You may not have much but you have each other. You may have even experienced some unexpected events of life. You may think it’s just the two of you starting out on a long journey of paying taxes and filling out census forms. But scripture tells us that Joseph and Mary were not two against the world. They walked with God. He was an integral part of their relationship from the very beginning. They were faithful to each other and God. This Christmas, may your home and heart be filled with love and commitment for God and for your betrothed.