Whenever the birth of Jesus the Christ Child is discussed, his mother Mary is spoken of in the holiest of terms. The same cannot be said for his earthly father, Joseph; who has rarely received any similar words of praise.
The story goes that Mary was in her fourth month of pregnancy and had spent considerable time away from her home in Nazareth visiting a female relative named Elizabeth. During this time, the angel Gabriel came to tell her she would give birth to a son. Distressed, Mary wondered how she would explain this news to Joseph; whom she was betrothed to in marriage. Yet as upsetting as the situation would potentially be to Joseph, God’s law called for a woman promised to one man who becomes pregnant by another to be stoned to death.
Sometime after her return home, Mary finally told Joseph that she was with child. Imagine the gamut of emotions he also must have felt. Why would she do this to him? Who could conceive of such a story? And consider Joseph’s humiliation within the community when his neighbors and friends heard the news. Who among us would be secure enough to accept such a scenario? The upset he felt was likely overwhelming; though his thoughts were not solely on himself. Matthew 1:18-25 records that Joseph, not wanting Mary to be subjected to shame or certain death, resolved to break their engagement quietly in an effort to protect her.
Still, Joseph felt tortured, for despite his decision to move on without Mary, he still deeply loved her. What should he ultimately do? As a humble and gracious man, Joseph had always tried to live a proper life as a dedicated follower of God’s laws. What had he done to deserve the predicament in which he now found himself?
Then, after falling into a deep sleep, an angel came to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Although these words are powerful, many lesser men surely would have found it difficult to cede their pride and reputation to obey them, but Joseph’s faith helped him to firmly accept his fate. In making the determination to take Mary as his wife, he further resolved to serve as a father, protector and guardian of a Child who would come to save the world.
Joseph was soon to be put to the test. Matthew 2:13-15 tells of the moment just prior to Jesus’ birth when Joseph and Mary traveled nearly 100 miles to Bethlehem on a donkey in order to comply with a census edict. Then, finding no place to stay, they took refuge in a stable where Christ was born. These events certainly could have led an ordinary man to say enough already. But Joseph was far from ordinary.
Shortly thereafter, an angel again appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for (King)
Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Again, Joseph rose to the occasion, taking a newborn child and exhausted Mary on a donkey by night to Egypt; a 400-plus mile journey to a foreign land where they would remain until the death of Herod. How many more times did Joseph again question if he was the man for such a moment?
As we enter into the special time of Christmas, we honor Joseph, a heroic and remarkable man who accepted the difficult role of father to the son of God. The immense humility attached to such a responsibility is truly unsurpassed in the course of history, as Joseph’s faith and obedience to God’s will still pays dividends to all of humanity.
Joseph turned the modern day notion of it’s all about me on its head. The spiritual guidance and human caring he provided to Jesus in his formative years was not only fatherly in nature, but a lasting example of sacrifice, character and love; honorable traits that we should all seek to mirror throughout the season and beyond.
Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News. Reach him a firstname.lastname@example.org.