An Angel Visits Joseph
Having found out that his fiancé, Mary, was having a baby (and not with him) Joseph wonders what to do. But God has plans for them both.
The Story in the Bible
Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened like this. His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, and before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, intended to put her away secretly.
But when he thought about these things, look, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to yourself Mary, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
Now all this has happened, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Look, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call his name Immanuel;" which is translated, "God with us."
And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took his wife to himself; and had no marital relations with her until she had brought forth a son; and he named him Jesus.
The History behind an Angel visiting Joseph in the Christmas Story
When Joseph found out about Mary's pregnancy, he must not have believed that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit but that she had been unfaithful to him. Even though they were engaged and not married, to break the relationship, Joseph would have had to divorce Mary. In fact, adultery in engagement was even punishable by death in some cases! Joseph did not want to disgrace Mary, so he planned to divorce her in private. This only needed two witnesses rather than going through the Jewish courts and no formal grounds needed to be given for the divorce.
But in a dream, an angel appeared to Joseph and told him to trust Mary. The angel also told Joseph that the child should be called Jesus. Having a vision in a dream from God was a sign of God's approval, so this would have made Joseph pay attention and do what the angel had said!
We're not told who the angel was, but it could well have been Gabriel, who is God's chief messenger angel. If you'd like to know more about Gabriel, go to the section on whychristmas?com's sister site whyangels?com about Gabriel.