In the midst of the Christmas season, I find it hard to rest and engage with the Story of Christmas. Maybe it’s all the presents to buy and send, the goodies to bake, the events to attend. Last year I encountered the same problem! Today I want to take the time to look at another person in the story.
When I found some time last week to take a longer look, I noticed Joseph, a man caught up in an event that centered around others. Mary, the unwed mother who needed protection. Jesus, the baby who needed protection. The Roman government that offered no protection and Herod, the ruler, who pursued Joseph’s charge in order to murder him.
In all of this Joseph thought of himself only once according to the account in Matthew. Before being let in on what was going on, he thought about his honor in marrying a woman pregnant by who knows who. But even in that, he meant to keep it quiet and protect Mary from the society they lived in that stoned women in situations such as hers. He still protected even in that moment…even in that moment when all appearances said he was the wronged one.
Then, an angel came to him and spoke to his heart. I love this. The angel first spoke to his fear. Do not be afraid. The angel went on and gave Joseph his role in this monumental event. Take Mary as your wife because she is carrying the One who will take away the sin of the world. And…he did it at great personal cost to his reputation. A cost that stayed with the family all their days.
The story takes some wild turns too. Learned astrologers and scientists come from distant lands with loads of gifts far greater than what a carpenter ever saw in his life, I assume. Then, another visit from an angel to the one, Joseph, charged with the protection of the One destined to save the world. This time, marching orders. Flee and flee now and then wait.
Joseph’s life again centered around protecting this Child and His mother and this time the cost was leaving their homeland under the dark of night without any explanation to loved ones. They became sojourners in a distant land. Jesus became a Third Culture Kid spending the young years of his life in Egypt. Joseph made a way for them as a refugee. His profession as a carpenter served them all well.
I wonder if they heard reports of the massacre that took place after they left? How did they feel when they returned and all those other families saw their son, Jesus, and remembered their own sons murdered? I imagine the benefits of their departure caused friction in relationships. How could others restrain their feelings of jealousy in the grief of a lost son? I bet Joseph endured a lot.
Joseph disappears from the story by Jesus’ adulthood and most suggest he passed away. I don’t like that the story goes this way…that Joseph misses the chance to see the fulfillment of the promise the angel told him. But the legacy this man leaves is truly tremendous. He protected the Savior of the world at great personal cost but he also raised James and Jude, Jesus’ brothers who became pillars of the early church.
Whatever feuding existed during Jesus’ ministry gave way to broken hearts in His younger brothers’ chests. I imagine that is Joseph’s legacy as well. Raising humble men willing to sacrifice their lives for others because of the One who takes away the sin of the world.
That’s the mark of a man, humility. Mary gets plenty of press, but I still think Joseph deserves more than he usually receives .