“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24, 25)
I’ll never forget Redford, partly because his was such an unusual first name, but mostly because of his story.
One of Redford’s closest friends in the small North Dakota town where he grew up fell in love with the cutest girl in school. Emily was everything a red-blooded teenage boy could have hoped for: happy, energetic, talkative, beautiful…and willing. Late one night, Redford’s friend called him. “She’s pregnant,” he said, his voice bursting through the phone lines. “What am I going to do?”
“What does Emily want to do?” Redford asked.
“Go away, have the baby, put it up for adoption and then come back,” Redford’s friend replied. “She’s not putting any pressure on me to marry her, so I think this is a good plan.” Redford just listened.
Emily quietly disappeared. Life in rural North Dakota returned to normal, quite unimpeded by the predictable soft questions and whispers.
Redford graduated from the local high school, then attended the county’s junior college, just a few miles east on Interstate 94. After receiving his associate’s degree, Redford came back home and took a job with a local merchant.
Five years later, an afternoon Greyhound bus brought Emily home. The locals were shocked to see her back, especially with three children in tow. In one hand she held the hand of a five-year-old boy with familiar blonde hair and blue eyes, recognizable gifts from his well-known daddy. In the other hand was the hand of a striking, dark-skinned girl. She looked to be about three. And strapped to Emily’s chest in one of those canvas slings was a newborn. The town’s cheerleader-turned-woman-of-the-world had come home. And everyone knew that each of these children was hers.
When Redford heard the news, he immediately looked for Emily. Her parents had mercifully invited her to live with them, and their living room is where he found her, feeding her baby. Kneeling on the floor beside Emily, Redford tenderly put his arms around his old friend. “I’m so glad to see you,” he said, his arms embracing both the girl and her tiny baby. “Welcome home.”
In the weeks that followed, Redford renewed the friendship with his high-school best-friend’s girl. He visited Emily and her children regularly, offering to help however he could. In what seemed like no time at all, he was hopelessly in love. In six months they were married and today, Redford, Emily and their little eclectic family live in a frame house, just inside the city limits of the same North Dakota town.
Joseph was faced with the dilemma of a lifetime. Mary, his precious fiancée, was pregnant. Incredibly, she claimed to still be a virgin. A virgin? he must have muttered to himself, I wasn’t born yesterday. But in a dream, God told Joseph to take Mary as his wife. “This child is from the Holy Spirit,” God told him, “and this baby’s going to save his people from their sins.” So in a quiet ceremony, Joseph married Mary, tenderly taking her into his home.
Two thousand years later, Jesus Christ, Joseph and Mary’s boy, would be faced with a dilemma. You and I, his wayward and unfaithful boys, need a home. God’s loving embrace is the best news we could ever receive.
Thanks, Redford, for your mercy. Thanks, Joseph, for your faithfulness. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for lovingly shepherding me by your grace.