Today, our anticipation of the Christ child nears its end as Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem and Jesus is born. Consider Joseph, the earthly father of our Savior. This man plays a large role in the nativity story, yet the gospel writers portray him as a ‘voiceless’ actor. We only see the activity of Joseph, but through these actions we come to understand the depth of his character. Upon learning that his betrothed was pregnant by another source, instead of choosing the available option of stoning Mary and the baby in her womb; on his own accord, this righteous man chose a path of compassion and integrity — a path leading to life. When the angel of the Lord visited him to explain the circumstances surrounding his pregnant wife, he was trusting and obedient — even in the face of public ridicule and judgment. All this from the nativity figurine that looks much like a shepherd, and is often treated as an after thought. For most of us, Joseph brings up the rear in our nativities…just behind the donkey and sheep. We place him on the periphery, but he deserves our special attention. In a male dominated society, Joseph had every right to end this earthly narrative before it came to fruition. What if Joseph made choices going against what the Lord told him to do? What happens in your own life when you make choices contrary to what the Lord has for you and asks of you?
Imagine the amount of trust Joseph displayed in his obedient response. Would we be so quick to listen to the Lord in these circumstances? Joseph was a righteous man; certainly he had heard “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11). As you reflect on your Advent journey, consider the trust, faith and compassion of our brother Joseph. May you make life-bringing choices to those you encounter in your everyday circumstance.
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 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.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.