Countdown to Christmas – Not just a carpenter

Mary, the mother of Jesus, always receives a lot of admiration, but today I’d like to draw your attention to Joseph, the earthly-father God chose for his Son. It was Joseph who was Jesus’ pattern of leadership in the home, his spiritual tutor, his mentor in business and personal relationships, his father. There’s no doubt in my mind God specifically chose Joseph because he was the most suitable for the task.

Here are verses from the Bible which give us an idea of Joseph’s character and spiritual integrity.

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”...When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1:19-20, 24 NIV

Joseph was a man of faith. He was compassionate. He heard and trusted the voice of God, despite social norms.

When (the wise men) had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt… Matthew 2:13-14 NIV

Joseph was ready, at a moment’s notice, to respond to the Lord’s commands. He accepted the role of father/protector with his whole heart.

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” Matthew 2:19 NIV

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord... When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. Luke 2:22, 39 NIV

Joseph’s character was defined by his faithfulness to his God and his family. He didn’t let anything prevent him from obeying God’s commands. For a man so attentive to the Spirit of the Lord, I often wonder if Joseph had an idea what Jesus’ future held. If he knew the Scriptures which pointed to the cross.

Although it’s conjecture, I find the book Unafraid, by Francine Rivers, helpful in getting a fuller image of the man who raised Jesus Christ. The story is focused on Mary, the mother of Jesus, but this is my favorite perspective on Joseph.

The rabbis said the Messiah would come at Passover. The Scriptures said the Messiah would be born of a virgin and would rise up to crush the head of the serpent, Satan. But what did it mean? How would it happen? Why this pain whenever he partook of the Passover feast? The answer was just beyond his reach, beyond his comprehension. Could anyone understand what God planned for mankind? But Joseph knew one thing without question: The Messiah is here! He is at this seder! He is at this table! The one who would deliver us is eating of the lamb that was offered in sacrifice for the atonement of our sins! He is eating the unleavened bread and drinking the wine!

No one realized. Everyone looked at Jesus and saw a twelve-year-old boy like any other, studying the Torah, working beside his father, growing up under the heel of Rome.

Jesus. Messiah. God with us.

Every year Joseph remembered the angel’s words as though he had heard them just yesterday. He would shiver in awareness, and again it would strike him as the eight-day celebration progressed without John’s appearing at the door. Passover was about a lamb sacrificed, a lamb whose blood marked for salvation those who believed what God said he would do. The lamb…the bloodred wine…the unleavened bread. His heart ached.

Jesus raised his eyes and looked into Joseph’s, and for the briefest moment, Joseph imagined the boy slain. Shuddering, he closed his eyes and swallowed the anguish that welled up inside him as love for the boy gripped him. Oh, Lord God…Oh Lord, Lord…

Let’s celebrate Christmas with a heart as devoted as Joseph’s, attentive and obedient to the word of our Lord.

“Unafraid.” Unafraid, by Francine Rivers, Tyndale House Publishers, 2001, p. 84.

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