It’s Christmas tomorrow. I hope you will find time to mull over the message secreted at the heart of this time. Some of us have heard the Christmas story so many times that it has lost its lustre. That line might describe me a few days ago.
I was reading through the nativity sequence – virgin falls pregnant, travels to Bethlehem, gives birth to Jesus in a stable, shepherds and wise men come to see him – and realised that we rarely give Joseph much thought. Mary gets her fair share of accolades, and there’s a glitter and mystery around the wise men. Jesus is the main character, and rightly so. But Joseph tends to stay in the shadows, his role often downplayed or skimmed over, forgotten. I mean, think how many artists have depicted the virgin and child, Joseph strangely absent.
It’s easy to overlook the fact that these famous Christmas characters were everyday people. Mary and Joseph were ordinary folk chosen for an extraordinary purpose: to raise Jesus like their own child, and first child at that. So who was this Joseph, and why was he chosen as Jesus’ earthly father?
Joseph was loyal.
When he discovered Mary was pregnant I’m sure he thought what every average Jo would think – that she had been sleeping around. But this is how he responded: “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19).
Joseph was faithful.
He listened to the angel in his dream who explained that Mary was pregnant with the Son of God. Despite the rather ludicrous nature of his vision, Joseph took a leap of faith and obeyed God’s missive.
“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (Matthew 1:24).
Joseph was a protector.
After Jesus’ birth, King Herod felt his throne was threatened and ordered Jesus be killed. In fact, in a murderous fury he later ordered that all boys under the age of two in the vicinity of Bethlehem be slain. God told Joseph, again in a dream, to flee.
“So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod” (Matthew 2:14-15).
Joseph was practical.
He was a carpenter and passed on his skills to Jesus. Carpentry – especially in those days without our level of technology, was a trade that demanded patience.
These are just a few of Joseph’s characteristics – I’m sure much more can be learned about him by reading between the lines of the scriptures. But I’m so thankful for this man who obeyed God and raised Jesus with the love of a father. And that’s all that is expected of us – to be willing participants in God’s greater plan. Joseph could never have foreseen the importance of his role right there and then.
According to the Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, 191 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ. The chance of that many prophecies being fulfilled in the life of one man is 1 in 84 followed by 131 zero’s.
This is what that looks like: 84,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,00.
Jesus was a big deal – and Joseph was part of his life.
Jesus still is a big deal – and he asks that we allow him to be part of our lives.
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
PS Thank you to my 43 followers and to others who frequent this blog or just randomly drop by. You are part of the reason I’m still writing *big hug*
PPS If you want to watch something that will make you smile, click here.
As printed in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday December 24, 2012.