FACES OF THE CHRISTMAS STORY: Joseph

‘Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.’ Matthew 1:19

 

Joseph was a good man. If that’s the only line you read here, it’s enough. I’m going to be gushing about him for the rest of this article.

Every time I read about Joseph in the Bible I am inspired to be a better person. This mostly silent character played a major role in the unfolding of the Christmas Story. Who is this man that God entrusted with the fostering of His Son on earth?

Do you know that, throughout the accounts, we do not hear Joseph’s voice? There was no place where his speech is recorded, as far as I’ve seen. Though of course he was not mute but the writers did not major on his words. His actions, however, spoke so loudly about the substance of this man that though we barely meet him, we feel we know him completely.

He was a descendant of David the king. Growing up, he must have heard that Messiah would come through their lineage. Perhaps some of his relatives thought one of their children would be the promised king. Joseph had long given up on such fairy tales. If he was a king then perhaps it would be king of hammers and nails, being that he spent so much time with them. He was a carpenter.

But when we first meet him he’s just heard that the girl he is betrothed to is pregnant, and there is no way in creation that he is even close to being responsible. She claims it is the Lord that had – and he had to wash his ears for even hearing the blasphemy of it all— ‘conceived’ the baby in her womb. He felt hurt, cheated and taken advantage of. Had he been too nice? It would have been better if she had simply admitted to an affair with one of the other boys that tried to woo her. Or perhaps the deed had occurred during those three months she spent down south with her cousin. Now she wants to spout a ‘miracle baby’ story like her cousin’s?

He didn’t know what to think.

It made no difference, either way. By law, she should be stoned. In public. By the townspeople. By him.

But Joseph could not and would not let that fly, for her sake. He chose to live above his lawful right of vengeance. He chose to let the situation pass quietly, breaking the betrothal in secret. The girl’s pleading parents could not express their gratitude enough. But he was still hurt.

You know the rest of the story. An angel appears in his dream telling him not to walk out on Mary, because the child in her womb is really of God. Didn’t God just need Mary’s womb alone for a virgin birth? Why was Joseph so important to this plan? What was Joseph needed for? As the story unfolds further, we would see as this man supports his betrothed. In choosing to stay, Joseph risked all kinds of ridicule. But in all that time he did not expose her. He supported her all the way to the baby’s delivery and beyond, for a baby he did not sire. This was a just man.

There is nothing like having faithful people supporting you when you’re birthing something that is of God.

Another striking thing about Joseph is the ministry of angels in his life. God gave him instruction and direction through angels in his dreams, and he did not despise or discard them. These happened at least four times. First, when the angel told him to stay with Mary. When Herod’s men were coming to kill the baby, an angel told him in a dream to leave the country. When Herod was dead, an angels told him in a dream to return. When he found that Herod’s son was in power, an angel told him in a dream to go round to stay in Nazareth. Dreams, dreams, dreams. He was impressionable to God, and this is the kind of heart that God works with, guiding and protecting. This is the kind of person that God can trust with His instructions, because they will listen and obey.

Joseph was also devout, obedient to the law of God. Throughout Mary’s pregnancy, he did not have intercourse with her until the baby was born and they were married. We read of him taking the baby to the temple to be dedicated, along with sacrifices. We later read of him taking a 12-year-old Jesus to the temple and, when Jesus goes missing, he begins looking for him along with his wife. When they do find Jesus, the boy is conversing with the leading scholars of that day.

And when they tell Jesus they’ve been looking for him, Jesus replies, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you realize that I had to be in my Father’s house?”

And here’s the fourth thing I learnt about Joseph. He was aware he was raising a boy that did not come from his loins. Jesus was Someone else’s Son. Joseph was just a caretaker for this boy, though he loved him as his own. How do you think he felt when Jesus referred to his real Father to Joseph’s face?

Stewardship, servanthood— these are undesirable qualities in the me-first world of today, though they are desperately needed. To take care of another man’s property and value it like your own is faithfulness in action. That is the best path to sustainability of anything. Joseph did that, serving God by raising His Son like his own.

God could trust this man.

He raised Jesus and must have loved him like his own. He would still have other children, and his qualities would definitely rub off on them as well. But by the time Jesus begins His ministry, Joseph is no longer in the story. He had most likely died by then, but he had played his role.

There is a lot to learn from and about Joseph, but one is enough for now.

Jesus said to His disciples, “…whosoever would become great among you, shall be your servant; and whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all.” (Mark 10:43-44)

Even Jesus came to serve. In God’s Kingdom, service is not ‘just’ a step to greatness. In God’s kingdom, greatness is shown in service. Greatness serves. Service is greatness. Joseph portrayed this.

 

Jesus came so that as many as believe on Him can have the Life of God in them. With God’s Spirit in us, we have the ability to be faithful (Galatians 5:22). Such is the kind of person that He can entrust with the responsibility of being co-labourers in His reconciliation project, bringing men back to life in Himself. He can entrust these people with ideas and assignments that will bless many, feed many, lift many, and help people better see the love He has for them.

This is God’s intent.

These people have angels sent to do service for them (Hebrews 1:14). They are sons of God and are led by His Spirit (Romans 8:14). They follow Jesus daily and learn from Him to serve.

 

This Christmas, allow yourself to be used of God. Learn to serve.

3 days to #Christmas

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