[This has been one of my most read and response-driven posts since I began this blog. I’ve done a fresh edit for you as my final for this year. Feel free to share. Merry Christmas.]
There is one figure that tends to be undervalued and overlooked in the Nativity scenes and the church Christmas pageants. Heck, even the bad guy, Herod, seems to get more attention. Yet, this guy is crucial to the story. Jesus had an earthly father—Joseph. Imagine for a moment being chosen to raise God’s only Son. … Let that sink in and settle a bit.
The story begins when his fiancée comes to him to say an angel has appeared to her and that God has spiritually impregnated her with His Son, Who, by the way, is going to be the Savior of the world. Now, think how believable that one might feel to you. Is that not one of the craziest excuses for an affair pregnancy you’ve ever heard?
In Matthew 1:19, Scripture states Joseph thinks to divorce her quietly (required of a betrothal in that day), so as not to expose her to public disgrace. Even amidst great doubt and question, Joseph put Mary first and protected her at all costs. He loved her, even in his darkest moment. But God had taken great care to choose a man of strong character for His Son. He had been watching and testing Joseph all his life—readying him for this moment.
We must consider that God’s choice of parents for His Son had just as much to do with Joseph as Mary. But wait. The story just gets better. Joseph has a dream where an angel confirms Mary’s story and tells him to name the boy “Jesus.” So Joseph immediately marries Mary. But wait, there’s more.
Joseph does not have sex with his wife prior to her giving birth. Now, there is nothing in this passage where the angel tells Joseph to abstain; in fact, the angel says to “take her home,” meaning he has all the legal rights of a husband. But Joseph made a choice out of respect to God’s plan. Joseph decided to stay out of God’s way, while staying in His will. (Matthew 1:20-25)
So, God gives Joseph the responsibility of raising His Son. Kids have always been expensive in any culture, so how does God help Joseph provide for his new family? Well, you know that gold, frankincense, and myrrh we talk about that the Magi brought when Christ was a toddler? (Always remember, God is just as practical as He is mystical.) What we focus on as elaborate gifts that some wealthy astronomers brought as worship offerings, God provided as the resources to finance the raising of His son. Those items would have been a nice income for many years back in that day. A trust fund in our terms. God provided and honored Joseph’s amazing faith by taking care of his family. (Matthew 6:33)
So, let’s review a few challenges and inspirations from a look at Joseph’s life—this over-looked man at the manger.
1—A life of integrity takes years to build, but God always honors and rewards the man who commits to the long haul with Him.
2—Sacrificial love means dying to self. Joseph loved Mary and God blesses guys who unconditionally love their wives.
3—A man after God’s heart works to stay out of His way, so he can stay in His will.
4—Obedience to God is invisible faith put in visible action. Joseph heard and took action every time God spoke to Him.
5—God will provide to a man what He promises a man.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let’s honor Joseph as one of the greatest, yet most overlooked men in Scripture—a man we can all learn much from in how to follow our Lord and Savior in obedience.