The First Christmas, Part 5

Mary Keeley

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?

16 Responses

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  1. Judith Robl says:

    Thank you all for this change of focus this week and for sharing your thoughts about that first Christmas.

  2. Jeanne T says:

    Mary, I never thought about Joseph at this depth before. You’re right when you say when life turns upside down, we see our true character (and sometimes, so do others). And look how Joseph responded. With humility, selflessness and dignity. Thanks for sharing this perspective on Joseph. You’ve given me a better understanding about this amazing, “good” man.
    Merry Christmas!

  3. Lisa says:

    To live a life worthy of God, like Joseph, can’t think of better gift or example this Christmas season. Thank you!

  4. Thank you for such an inspiring post, Mary. I, too, have wondered about the conversations between Jesus and his earthly father. That he loved and cared for his family is obvious by his actions. And not knowing when Jesus would be called to start his ministry, he passed along his trade to Jesus, as any father would, despite knowing this child entrusted to him was like no other.

    Thanks for helping me focus my mind and heart where it belongs most this season.

  5. Diane Yuhas says:

    May God help me to be willing to be content with the background.

  6. Thank you for your reflection, Mary. To be a “good” woman, to be trustingly obedient to God’s will,as was Joseph, to be humble and devoted are attributes of Joseph’s that I hope to emulate. I think he is an amazing role model, particularly in terms of his trust in God’s will. He accepted Mary as his wife. He immediately got up and bundled Mary and Jesus off to Egypt when the angel instructed him, through a dream to do so, and he returned to Nazareth again when he was instructed to do so. Such faith, such trust and such courage! I pray to listen to God the way that Joseph did. Obviously he was both open and attentive to God’s word. He humbly stays in the background in Scripture yet it is good to notice him, as you have, since there is so much God can teach us through him.

    Have a blessed Christmas and a peace-filled New Year!

  7. It’s interesting that Joseph was a carpenter. Very few men at that time had jobs they could do anywhere but the place they lived but that career let Joseph bring some tools along to Bethlehem and support his family in Egypt until it was safe to return home. If he’d been a farmer, a shepherd, a fisherman, or a soldier that wouldn’t have been possible.

    • Jan Thompson says:

      Good point! The other jobs are tied to a geographic location. But carpentry — you can use it anywhere. He could take his tools with him.

      Another thing about carpentry — Joseph worked with wood. Wood always reminds me of trees, specifically the tree hewn to make the cross on which Jesus Christ hung for my sins and the sins of the world. A humbling thought for me this Christmas. May I never forget the cost that Christ paid to set me free.

      Back to vocations, carpentry also reminds me of another job. Paul of Tarsus was a tentmaker, and that’s flexible too. He could do that in any city when he wasn’t preaching.

  8. . . . maybe the greatest Step Father that ever lived.

  9. Oh yes, that would be a satisfying compliment. Thanks Mary.

    And thanks to the rest of the Bookie Team who brought this wonderful

  10. … week of insights.

    (Sorry about the break in transmission.)

  11. So often we consider Mary and what a “good woman” she must have been to be chosen by God to bring forth His son, but I’ve never considered how important Joseph’s role was in raising Jesus. About six years ago my husband joined a men’s study group at church and they read “Wild at Heart.” Since then, my husband and I have become very aware of the importance of the father’s role in affirming children and giving them the confidence they need to go forth and do the work God has for them. Joseph must have been an amazing man.

    The Books and Such Blog has been a must-stop location for me this week, even more than usual! As each aspect of the Christmas Story has been presented, I’ve taken bits and pieces away with me to ponder in my heart. I looked forward to each day and was never disappointed. Thank you for dedicating this week to our Savior’s Birth Story.

  12. Beautiful post. Thank you.

  13. Denise Hisey says:

    What a wonderful perspective and gentle reminder to be satisfied with being in the shadows as long as we are obeying.

    Merry Christmas!

  14. Janet, Wendy, Rachel, Rachelle and Mary, thank you for this beautiful series of Christmas essays for us to, like Mary, ponder these things in our hearts. May you each have a blessed Christmas and a productive year in 2013.

  15. Kiersti says:

    This has been a beautiful series–in this busy season, it’s such a blessing to have another reminder to focus on the reason we are celebrating…Jesus’ coming in humility, a Child born to us. And I too had never thought before of God’s providence even in Joseph’s occupation–thanks, Janet! And thank you all, Books and Such family, for such a lovely blog series and pointing our hearts toward Him. Merry Christmas!