That Man, Joseph

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.  DSC_0093

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 .

My Times and His Hands

After a week of holiday and travel topped off by a flu-sickened kid, we stayed home for church Sunday. Our kids love church at home not because we do anything awesome. No crafts, no games, no songs, just time.

Our littlest one is the sickie. He snored under a blanket clutching his tiger. Our middle perused through his comic book- styled Bible. The oldest paid attention to the sermon. We listened to Alistair Begg while my husband and I lounged around nursing a second cup of coffee.

My Times are in Your Hands was the theme. I’d heard it before and remembered it. Any time or situation is a good time to listen to that sermon by Alistair Begg, by the way. My times are in His hands. I always need to know it.

I’ll tell you this past year the worst moments were when I forgot. The Sunday sermon reminded me again. Lives are long. Stories are longer. God’s story is the longest of all.

Alistair illuminated the story of Joseph for us. What a story. My middle son’s eyes got wide when he heard that some guys sold their brother into slavery. I’m sure it gave him ideas. It’s good to cover these things young and the Bible covers quite a bit. No, you cannot sell your brother into slavery. But, if you do, God can still bring good out of it. Dang. I really wanted the answer to be just No! Don’t do it! 

Most of the time I don’t know why or for what purpose things happen the way they do. Oh sure, I can guess and I do try to guess. Much is said about purpose in the Bible. There are many benefits to suffering. I learn perseverance in trials. I learn joy through and in pain. I learn to give thanks in everything. But those things are more like keeping my blinders on and plowing my row. Most often I don’t see the bigger picture, I just take the next step trusting I’m on the right row.

A few days ago we sat in a group with many others preparing to go overseas to our former home. Someone mentioned that 7 years ago they sat in my home and that’s when they began to see themselves overseas. 7 years ago. That day I’m sure I changed diapers and stressed a little and scrambled and hurried like most young moms do when hosting a party. I really don’t think I did much but isn’t that the beauty?

Now these remind me that God was at work 7 years ago. I got to play a very small part and it was enough. I don’t know what part I play today or what part I played yesterday and I may never know. My times are in His hands and the Lord is always at work.

Joseph got a peek at God’s purposes years and years down the road. Somehow, his heart was still soft enough to receive the bigger picture God worked through his pain. What a gift.

My times are in His hands so He knows I’m at home and who knows but that in a few years or decades or in heaven I might see a glimpse of what He is working out today in my American apartment.

I tell you, that is freeing on a day like today when I feel cooped up inside with a 5-year-old who wants 4 more identical tiger lovies for Christmas. He cried for a while about that. I’m trying to manage expectations and his lovie is now a rare collector’s item, translated, expen$ive.

My times are in His hands. I can rest.

To listen to the sermon, follow this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pi4GvCCfbiI

That Man, Joseph

I slacked off my writing last week.  My parents dodged snow storms and smog storms to arrive for a Christmas visit a week and a half ago.  Snow storms delayed their departure and smog here changed our travel plans.  When freeways close because of smog I give thanks for trains!  In the midst of the Christmas season, I find it hard to rest and engage with the Story of Christmas.

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.  DSC_0093

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.

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 others because of the One who takes away the sin of the world.

That’s the mark of a man.  Mary gets plenty of press…and Joseph does too…but I still think he deserves more.