engagement and a problem
It was taken for granted in those days that young people got married, usually when a girl was about 14 and a young man over 25.
Marriages were arranged by parents. And so the marriage of Joseph and Mary, planned by their parents, came about.
Though unmarried young men and women were strictly separated then, in a small town like Nazareth the two had to meet at times.
On those occasions at the market, on the road, during the Jewish feasts, Joseph saw Mary briefly. The young girl's beauty seemed to come from a special depth of spirit. He was attracted, and he looked forward to their marriage.
They were engaged at a formal ceremony before family and friends, which gave Joseph the right to call Mary his wife. Then, as was the custom, Mary returned to her own home to wait about a year for the day when she would go to live with her husband.
The Gospel of Luke tells what took place then: "The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary."
The angel announced that a child would be born to her by the power of God, who would save his people from their sins. Mary consented to the angel's request and conceived the child in her parent's home.
When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, according to Matthew's Gospel, he was deeply disturbed, not knowing of the angel's visit.
Jewish law demanded he divorce Mary for infidelity, since she conceived a child that was not his.
He knew he must follow the law as an upright man, but his high regard for Mary and his own kindness made him decide to divorce her quietly so as not to bring her public disgrace.
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