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The Living Nativity Devotional

Read This: "Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

"But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.' " (Matthew 1:19-21)

Think: Joseph isn't the most interesting of that little group huddled around the baby in nativity scenes, living or otherwise, on display around the world every Christmas season. His wasn't the miracle pregnancy or the close encounter with the whole host of heavenly angels. (He slept through his own angel visit.) We're even more curious about the animals in the barn with the baby than we are about Joseph.

He is "just the dad." His job is just to do what men do: Take care of the pregnant lady. Find a place to stay. Protect. Provide. Remember your two lines and then stand back and to the left.

Still, Joseph is the one who could most easily have skipped out on the photo op in the stable. All he would have had to do was the respectable thing: Don't marry the pregnant teenager you didn't have sex with. Pretend that dream about the angel was indigestion. Be nice about it, but find another girl. Quick.

Instead, he did the hardest thing God asks of any of us: He demonstrated his faith in Jesus by obeying even when it cost him his public honor. He showed that he believed the God of heaven had sent the rescuer by manning up and marrying the girl he hadn't touched. He agreed to parent God's child before having any of his own.

It's easy to sing songs of faith in Jesus at Christmastime, but it's often much more difficult to pay the high price of the obedience faith demands the rest of the year, the rest of our lives. Maybe we could use a few more Josephs living out the nativity in their world this year.

Ask: Is your culture skeptical that Mary was a virgin, that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit with the Son of God? What does it cost you to be open about believing that baby was the Messiah? What area of obedience or public ridicule most challenges what you claim to believe about Jesus? Is God convicting you to demonstrate your faith in him by some specific act of obedience right now?

Pray: Ask God to make you strong with the conviction that Jesus is the Son of God, so strong that you are willing to obey all he asks even if it may look foolish in the eyes of your friends, neighbors, and family members.