From his beginnings as a humble carpenter to his all-important role as the earthly father of Jesus, Joseph’s place in the nativity story is sometimes overlooked. We’re quite familiar with Mary’s role in the Christmas story, and we speak often about her in the retelling of the birth of Christ, but Joseph? Not so much. Yet Joseph’s life contains valuable lessons for all of us. His courageous actions were crucial to the birth of Christ and God’s salvation plan for humanity. Through the life and stories that Jesus told, it becomes apparent that Joseph intentionally taught and modeled for Jesus who God is and what God’s will was for his life.
In his book, Faithful, Adam Hamilton asks: When Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son—likening God to the patient and merciful father who took back his son even after the boy had demanded his inheritance in advance and then squandered everything on wild living—had Jesus seen this kind of love and forgiveness by Joseph in response to one or more of his brothers? When Jesus spoke about the importance of telling the truth, might he have been describing what he had learned by watching Joseph? When Jesus taught his disciples that true greatness is found in humble service, might he have been describing what he had seen in his carpenter father every single day?” Those are good questions for us to reflect on as we celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas season.
There are many things we can learn from Joseph who, no doubt, had a huge part in shaping the life of Jesus. I am looking forward to preaching a Christmas message series that looks more closely into the life of Joseph, one that seeks to see Christmas through his eyes. For many people this year, COVID-19 is making it more difficult to enjoy the Christmas season. Maybe they have lost a job. Maybe they have lost a loved one or a close friend. Maybe they are tired of shut-downs and the stress of being cooped up with family at home. Maybe they are missing their friends at school or at college. Maybe they are missing getting together with family and friends during the holidays.
As difficult as it may be for you to find the joy of Christmas this year, let’s all remember that Christmas wasn’t easy for Joseph either. God asked him to endure the stigma of marrying a woman who was pregnant with a child not his own… having gotten pregnant while they were engaged to get married. Then later God asked Joseph to protect that child by quitting his job, packing up everything and moving to another country, because the government was coming after Jesus in an attempt to kill him. And then, can you imagine, how do you yell at a child who messes up (Did Jesus ever mess up?), knowing that he is God? I don’t think I would want to be Jesus’ earthly parent, I’m just sayin.’ God asked Joseph to raise the Messiah.
None of us has been asked to do what Joseph did in raising the Messiah. But every mother, father, step-parent, grandparent, aunt and uncle, church leader and Sunday school teacher has been asked to raise children of God, to show them a picture of God’s love and mercy, and to teach them intentionally what it means to be God’s children. When we do that, we follow the example of a righteous man named Joseph.
Celebrating the Christ of Christmas with you,