READ: Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2: 3-5, Matthew 13: 54-55, Luke 4:22
If there is one character in the Christmas story that seems to set short shrift, it would have to be Joseph. Maybe it’s because he wasn’t Jesus’ biological father or perhaps it’s that so little is said about him after Christ’s birth. Whatever the reason, people don’t talk about Joseph a whole lot to this day.
But when you think about it, being the foster father of the Messiah had to have turned that carpenter’s life upside down, in ways we probably fail to fully appreciate. It would be hard, for example, to measure the price he paid in loss of reputation and privacy and respect, when he married the young pregnant woman instead of finding a nice way to get her out of his life. Beyond that, consider the inner turmoil that must have plagued him as he faithfully raised the boy – wrestled with him and taught him and disciplined him and tucked him in at night – knowing all along that it wasn’t really his son at all. Surely Joseph’s heart was pierced the time he searched frantically all over the temple for Jesus during their annual visit, only to have the twelve year old ask, “didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s business?”
Though we can surmise about these things, the reality is that Scripture gives us little to remember Joseph by. After the temple visit he fades from view and we have no record of how or when he died. In all of the Gospel narratives, there is nothing written about what he felt or the things he might have said when the angel woke him or he took Mary as his own or when the baby Jesus was born. It almost feels as if he was a strangely silent bystander over the course of the entire ordeal. Apparently, Joseph of Nazareth had nothing to say at all.
Or did he?
Actually, even a cursory glance at Jesus’ early years suggests that Joseph left us a profound legacy – not in words, but through the acts of quiet obedience. When Gabriel told him to wed his pregnant fiance, he did so without argument. When an angel warned him to leave Bethlehem, he took Mary, and baby Jesus and traveled to a hostile land where they would have no family, no friends and no source of income. When Herod died and God told him to take his family back to Israel, Joseph packed up and went once again. And when he got there only to be warned not to settle in Judea, which was most likely his original plan, he journeyed instead to Galilee to set up housekeeping, an act that opened the door for the fulfillment of the prophesy that the Saviour would be a Nazarene.
What is the legacy we glean from these few scattered verses about the legal guardian of our Lord? Whatever else Joseph might have been, he was a man who feared God above all, and as a result, readily relinquished his rights to comfort or a career or status or security or even personal identity. Though every decision to do what God asked was a costly one, we find in the actions of joseph of Nazareth no sense of resistance.
So as we approach Christmas, let us look a little more intently at this one who quiet obedience tells a story all its own. May his life cause us to consider what kind of message the actions in our personal narratives send to those who may be watching on any given day. And as we remember this one who stood so humbly at the edges of the Christmas chronicle, may we offer our hearts afresh to the God he served with such unfettered abandonment.
REFLECT: In what ways do you think assumptions of our culture concerning things like self-esteem, identity, financial security and personal fulfillment have influenced your spiritual journey? Spend some time prayerfully meditating on Joseph’s quiet obedience in light of your own life. Is there anything God has asked you to leave behind? What has been your response? Is there any area you have marked off as ‘untouchable’ to God – perhaps not a conscious, deliberate decision, but by a resistance to even listen to that still, small voice? Offer your heart to Him today, asking God to give you the kind of tenderness toward Him that we see in the heart of Joseph.
RESPOND: While our tendency is to focus on the person when we observe such radical obedience. Joseph’s actions reveal something far more important – the gratness of the God he served. Only the Almighty, full of grace and glory, could inspire such amazing submission. Worship Him this morning as you make the following verses your own.
PSALM 104: 1-2, 31-34
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, you are very great;
You are clothed with spendor and majesty,
Covering yourself with light as a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain.
Let the glory of the LORD endure forever;
Let the LORD be glad in HIS works;
He looks at the earth, and it trembles;
He touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing ot the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
Let my meditation be pleasing to HIM;
As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD.
CHRISTMAS ACTIVITY: Look for opportunities to respond with quiet obedience to the Lord as you go throughout this day.