Joseph – The Silent Character of Christmas
By Matthew White
In the process of our church nativity scene being put out on display this year, it was discovered that Joseph was missing. When I was told that he was nowhere to be found it caused me to reflect on a message I preached several years ago about the fact that Joseph is often overlooked or forgotten about all together during the Christmas season.
Everyone else seems to receive their fair share of attention.
Mary, of course, gets the lion’s share. A number of songs have been written about her perspective. In Catholic circles, she is idolized to the point of being worshipped and prayed to because of her perceived role as an advocate. (We do indeed have an Advocate with the Father, but it’s not Mary.) (1 John 2:1)
The wise men, of course, are very popular and most are familiar with their journey from afar and the gifts they brought to present to the newborn King. They too have songs written about them.
As the first to receive news of the birth of Christ, the shepherd’s experience is a favorite of many. Though initially frightening, what an honor to be visited by an angel of the Lord, witness the glory of the Lord, and see a multitude of the heavenly host praising God.
Then there is the story of Simeon, who had been told by the Holy Ghost that he wouldn’t see death until he had seen Christ.
And then, of course, evil king Herod, who claimed he wanted to worship the Lord, but really only wanted to kill Him.
Somehow though, in all the stories, Joseph is often unintentionally minimized. I recently read of a couple of instances where children didn’t want to play his part in church Christmas productions because he never says a word. Have you ever considered that? The earthly father of Jesus never speaks a word in Scripture.
Though Scripture never records what he said, we do see his actions, which in his case do indeed speak far louder than words.
Consider His Righteousness
Matthew 1:19 (KJV), “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.”
The word just in verse 19 means righteous. In fact, some translations even render it that way. The point is Joseph was a good man, a man who walked with God, a man who kept the Law.
In fact, it was the Law that compelled him to divorce Mary, but his righteousness that caused him to want to do so quietly. Joseph had rights. According to Deuteronomy 22, the Law allowed him to have Mary stoned to death. But even if a stoning hadn’t been called for, a public divorce still would have ruined her. No man would have wanted her after that, thus she would have been a single mother, and single mothers didn’t fare well in those days.
So in his compassion, Joseph determined that he would quietly put Mary away, and they would simply go their separate ways.
Have you ever considered how different things might have been had Joseph not been a righteous man, and if he’d let his flesh get in the way? What would our Christmas story look like had he followed the norm of the culture? Might the Christmas story be different?
How often do we allow our flesh to direct our actions when surprising or difficult situations arise? How often do we consider our perceived rights and place them above what God is trying to do in us or through us? How different would our stories turn out if we acted righteously like Joseph instead of following the norm of our culture?
Consider His Receptivity
Matthew 1:20 (KJV), “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”
Spiritually, Joseph was in a place where he could hear from the Lord. As a result, the Lord was able to tell him exactly what he was to do. He first provided comfort by letting him know that Mary had not been unfaithful, then proceeded to tell him what this child would be named and what His purpose would be. God was going to use this child to bring about His eternal purposes, and to fulfill all the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, and Joseph was blessed to be a part of this plan – all because he was sensitive and receptive to the voice of the Lord.
How much do we miss out on because too often we are not where we need to be spiritually? We let the busyness and burdens of life weigh so heavy on our minds that we can’t hear from the Lord. Our lives are so loud that the still small voice is silenced.
What a lesson from Joseph. Even in the midst of despair – presumed unfaithfulness of his future wife – he could still put his own feelings aside, and be receptive to the voice of God
Consider His Resignation
Matthew 1:24 (KJV), “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him…”
This was the first of four dreams Joseph would have in which he would receive instructions. With each dream, the instructions would change, but his response would not. Each time his response was one of submission and obedience.
Have you ever wondered if this was part of Joseph’s plan? It’s certainly not the kind of news or calling most engaged men expect to hear. I would imagine that Joseph, like most of us, had plans of his own. Surely he had a place for them to live, rather than being on the run for the next few years. I’m sure when he dreamt of children, he hoped his firstborn would be a son of his very own to carry his name. I can’t imagine that he expected to live the rest of his days knowing that he would be judged by society as the father of either an illegitimate child or one conceived out of wedlock.
What an example. He willingly laid aside his plans and reputation to do what God had planned for Him, and as a result, our nativity scenes 2000 years later are incomplete without this silent character.
Over the next few days as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, let’s not forget about the man God chose to be the earthly father of His precious Son. May we strive to be receptive to the voice of the Lord, and respond with obedience and submission.