This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 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. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
The Christmas story usually centres around Mary and the baby Jesus. Joseph is a supporting character who is present with Mary and Jesus. Even the wisemen, shepherds and angels are sometimes more prominent in the story when it is re-told at Christmas. In this devotion, I would like to focus on Joseph’s role in the birth and life of Jesus the Messiah. The scriptures tell us that Joseph was faithful to the law and when he found out that Mary was pregnant, he had initially planned to divorce Mary quietly in order to protect her dignity. He had not yet understood that Mary was pregnant with the Son of God, and had probably thought tht Mary had slept with someone else. However the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him the truth, that Mary had conceived as a miracle of God to give birth to a son who would save the people from their sins. Joseph chose to believe the angel of the Lord and did what he was instructed to do faithfully. Think about how admirably he behaved here. Joseph was a young man, possibly in his late teens or early twenties. He was obedient to God and additionally, he showed respect to Mary and God in his decision not to consummate their marriage until Jesus was born. He must have had a significant amount of maturity to put his own reputation and self-interest aside in order to obey God and to remain faithful to Mary and the baby Jesus, both of whom God had entrusted to him to care for.
Soon after this, God continued to speak to Joseph through dreams in order to help him protect Mary and Jesus from the murderous King Herod (Matthew 2:13 -23). In a story similar to Matthew 1, Joseph was told to take his family to Egypt by an angel of the Lord in his dreams and he obeyed straight away. This saved Jesus from being murdered. There is no suggestion of unbelief, complaint or conflict in Joseph’s mind or in his actions. He was told what to do, and he believed and obeyed. He did this in order to protect his family. This was his duty as a husband and father, and he did it faithfully. After Herod died Joseph received another message from an angel in a dream, that those who were trying to kill the child were dead. He took his family to Israel but after yet another message from an angel, he moved his family to Nazareth. There, Joseph and Mary raised Jesus together, and He grew and became strong (Luke 2:40). We know that Joseph and Mary had taken their family (they had more children after Jesus was born) to the Jerusalem festival of the Passover every year, when we read the story of Jesus staying behind and teaching at the temple aged 12 years. This indicates that Joseph carried out his duties as the spiritual head of the family consistently and over a long period of time.
So what do we know about Joseph from all this? He was a faithful and obedient man of God, who carried out his duties diligently and in the best interests of his wife and children. He did what was necessary to protect them and to ensure their survival and spiritual well-being. He put God’s will above his own. He had a close relationship with God. He did not complain. He loved and respected his wife. In other parts of the Bible, we learn that he was a carpenter who taught Jesus his skills so that Jesus also had a livelihood. In all this, Joseph demonstrated how to be an earthly father. I believe that God chose Joseph to be Jesus’ earthly father as much as he chose Mary to be his mother. Joseph was faithful and obedient, and therefore God entrusted him the duty of raising His son Jesus on earth. A father’s role is just as crucial to a child’s development and well-being as a mother’s role. Joseph is a fine example of how to be an earthly husband and father according to God’s will. He may have had a supportive role in the nativity story, but he was no less important for that.
For husbands and fathers: Father God, thank You for what we can learn from Joseph’s example. Help us to be faithful and obedient as we care for our wives and children. Help us to be mature and sensitive to Your guidance in order that everything we do may be done according to Your will, for the benefit of our marriage and family. Help us to love our wives and children well, as you have taught us to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen
For wives and children: Father God, thank You for Your word and teaching. We pray for our husbands and fathers, that You may strengthen them and bless them. Help them in their walk with You, that they may be faithful, obedient and sensitive to Your guidance. We thank You for placing them in our lives. Help us to love them well, as you have taught us to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.