Sweet as it is to linger in Hebron beside Mary and Elisabeth, our hearts are always back to Joseph in his unspeakable agony. The absent are dear, just as the dead are perfect. And Mary’s dear image became to Joseph dearer still when he could no longer see her face or hear her voice. Nazareth was empty to Joseph; it was worse than empty, it was a city of sepulchers, in which he sought for death and could not find it. Day after day, week after week, Joseph’s misery increased, and when he went up to the synagogue on the Sabbath day that only made him feel his loneliness and misery all the more. Mary’s sweet presence had often made the holy place more holy to him, and her voice in the Psalms had been to him as when an angel sings.
On one of those Sabbaths which the exiled Virgin was spending at Hebron Joseph went up again to the sanctuary of Nazareth seeking to hide his grief with God. And this, I feel sure, was the Scripture appointed to be read in the synagogue that day: “Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Joseph’s heart was absolutely overwhelmed within him as he listened to that astounding Scripture. Never had ear or heart of man heard these amazing words as Joseph heard them that day. And then, when he laid himself down to sleep that night, his pillow became like a stone under his head. Not that he was cast out; but he had cast out another, and she the best of God’s creatures. Ay, and she perhaps – how shall he whisper it even to himself at midnight – the virgin-mother of Immanuel! A better mother he could not have. So speaking to himself til he was terrified at his own thoughts, weary with another week’s lonely labor, and aged with many weeks of agony and despair, Joseph fell asleep. Then a thing was secretly brought to him, and his ear received a little thereof. There was silence, and he heard a voice saying to him, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” Gabriel was sent to reassure Joseph’s despairing heart, to demand the consummation of the broken-off marriage, and to announce the Incarnation of the Son of God.
excerpt from “Joseph and Mary” by Alexander Whyte taken from “Classic Sermons Of The Birth Of Christ” by Warren Wiersbe