The Christmas Story: Joseph
“And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him...”1
Fatherhood can cause feelings of inadequacy in even the most courageous of men. This was certainly the case for Joseph.
The New Testament opens with an impressive genealogy, including noteworthy men such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, along with a few famous kings, such as David and Solomon. At the edge of that gene pool, we find some ‘average joe’s’ too, including the protagonist of today's reading: “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born...” (Mat. 1:16).
The only time we hear of Joseph in the Bible is in reference to the birth of Jesus (Mat. 1 and Luke 2); but that was enough to make him one of the most important characters in history. Joseph was hand-picked by God to be the earthly father of his one and only Son, Jesus. A man who would be responsible to teach his Son God's Law according to Jewish customs. Joseph is called a righteous man (Mat. 1:19 ASV); he followed and obeyed God’s Law. So, when Mary told him that she was pregnant, he thought long and hard of the best way to approach the situation without harming Mary’s reputation, for the child was not his and they were not yet married. Jewish law would have seen Mary stoned for infidelity, but Joseph’s compassion for his fiancé made him decide to evade scandal and deal with matters privately. Here the Holy Spirit stepped in to ease his mind and cede his decision. The Angel of the Lord, that appeared to Joseph in a dream, assured him that Mary’s child was God’s, and that he had nothing to fear as he stepped in to take the responsibility of being the baby’s father. Being the just and unselfish man that he was, Joseph arose and never questioned God as he took Mary as his bride, and Jesus as his son. His unselfishness went even deeper when he denied himself any desire for his new wife until after the birth of Jesus. Joseph cared for his wife throughout her pregnancy and continued to be her (and the baby’s) protector after the birth when King Herod sought to see Jesus (the prophesied King) dead.
Although Joseph’s mention in the Bible is brief, his example left, by God, to Fathers of all generations is great. God chose a righteous man, obedient to the Lord, with the compassion, love and unselfish character needed to raise our Savior.
Joseph may seem like just a ‘stand-in’ in the Nativity Scene, but his role in Jesus’ birth is of much more importance, for without his obedience to God’s call, Mary would have been disgraced and the story of Jesus’ birth might have had a different ending!
Dear God, thank you for every detail in the story of the birth of your Son. Thank you that we have so much more to learn from each pivotal character in the greatest event in history. Your plan leading up to the moment your Son would be born was planned with such perfection that I have no doubt in my mind that your plan for me is perfect as well! Thank you for the life of Joseph and the example he is to fathers today. In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.
All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.