On this eve of Christmas Eve, I’m thinkin’ about the people of Christmas. Top billing goes to Mary, the shepherds, the Angels. Joseph joins the cast as a secondary character. He only gets sixteen verses in the entire Bible and we don’t hear his name except for a few weeks in December. He is the non-speaking part in the main scene of the Christmas pageant. Sixteen verses, no quotes, barely even a “supporting” actor. Briefly seen, never heard, always present: Joseph.
Joseph was a twenty-year old carpenter from a dusty, dirty town never mentioned in the Bible until Christmas. He was probably born and raised there and never traveled extensively. His father was probably a carpenter and his family had probably known Mary’s family his entire life. He boasted a impressive lineage. Judah, Boaz, David, Solomon. It was not coincidence that many years later, a many “great” grandson of Solomon would be engaed to a young lady named Mary.
In New Testament times, an engagement was as legally binding as marriage. The engagement was a contract from the bride’s family to produce a virgin daughter for the groom. Mary’s unplanned pregnancy was humilating and embarassing for her father. He could no longer fulfill his contract with Joseph’s family.
I wonder how Joseph found out Mary was pregnant. She couldn’t have told him, perhaps her father was required to notify him. Maybe he heard it through the grapevine. He knew he wasn’t responsible for this pregnancy, yet there is no record of his denial. He plans a quiet divorce to decrease the embarassment for both of them. He’s got a plan when an angel appears. Joseph doesn’t converse with the angel, doesn’t get clarification, yet, he gets right up and does “what the angel said”. His actions made him look guilty in a little town of gossips.
Joseph loved and cared for a seemingly cheating woman and a child that was not his. In Bethlehem, he did his best to provided for his pregnant wife and ultimately delievered her child himself in a barn. He left his job, family and home to live in Egypt for several years, because of this child. He taught this child Jewish history, customs and carpentry. From a heart of unconditional love, Jesus learned loyalty and service from this man. Joseph has stood the test of time with only sixteen verses to his fame.
In our current culture, it would seem that the Josephs are few and far between. The airwaves of our media champion the arrogant, the proud, the rich. Rebellion and riotous living is applauded. I say with James, “Brothers, this should not be”. I believe the Josephs are out there. I know some of them. Quietly raising their familes, faithfully loving their wives and children, consistently providing for them. Going to work each day and coming home each night. Praying over their families, friends and their country. Bring Joseph out of the shadow of your nativity tonight, think about him as a main character. Encourage the Josephs in your life.
Thinkin’ about the Josephs in my life.