The First Christmas, Part 5
Blogger: Mary Keeley
For our fifth and final pondering of the first Christmas, I chose to contemplate Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, because seemingly he is minimized in Scripture. And rightly so, since Joseph wasn’t Jesus’s biological father. Yet God looked deep in Joseph’s heart, saw what this man was made of, and chose him for a profound role.
Imagine the privilege and responsibility entrusted to Joseph by THE Father: to protect His Son, nurture, and raise the Savior of the world. What did God see in him that led Him to choose Joseph for this mission?
Joseph was humble. There is nothing in the biblical record that suggests he had lofty aspirations or sought the limelight for himself. Joseph was planning a quiet, unassuming life raising a family with Mary, the love of his life.
Imagine the confusion, pain, conflicted thoughts, and sense of betrayal he must have felt when Mary told him she was pregnant. According to Jewish law their betrothal meant he and Mary were already legally married. It isn’t every day that a wife tells her husband she’s pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Her explanation didn’t make any sense. In the face of this crushing turn of events, Joseph surrendered his human responses in favor of being obedient to God’s standards and doing the right thing in a loving way.
Often a person’s true character doesn’t reveal itself until his or her life is turned upside down. Matthew and Luke tell us Joseph was “a good man.” His decision to divorce Mary quietly to spare her public disgrace demonstrated his integrity and willingness to sacrifice his own reputation for her sake–even in the midst of his grief and devastation over Mary’s apparent unfaithfulness. People would surely find out and, being uninformed, might assume Joseph had callously changed his mind and abandoned her. Joseph was willing to accept the personal cost to value another’s welfare ahead of his own.
But Joseph had no idea the honor God was about to bestow on him…and the sacrifices this blessing would require of him. When the angel appeared with a message of reassurance to go ahead with his marriage to Mary, Joseph didn’t question or resist the plan. He didn’t argue that God should choose someone of greater knowledge and stature than he possessed for this task. In steadfast faith, he followed God’s direction for his life without needing to know what lay ahead.
Obviously, life was going to be different—way different. How does one get his mind around the idea that he is being charged with raising the Son of God, the Savior of the world? He trusted and knew God would guide him. Scripture tells us Joseph taught Jesus his carpentry trade. I try to imagine their loving conversations as they worked together, Joseph’s patience and gentle instruction.
The last time Joseph is mentioned in the Gospels is when Jesus was twelve. We don’t know when Joseph died. I suspect he was content and felt quite right about fading into the background. After all, the God of the universe was Jesus’ real Father. Joseph was just a humble man who obeyed. But he was a giant of faithfulness and devotion to God.
Wouldn’t it be a supreme honor to have it said of us that we are “a good woman” or “a good man” like Joseph?