When we think of the Christmas story, it seems we tend to forget the role that Joseph played in this historical event. We rightly focus on the baby Jesus, or often on His mother Mary. To be sure, Joseph is there in every nativity scene, but do we really comprehend the importance he plays in this story and what we can learn from him?
Mary knew beyond any doubt that she was a virgin and when she found herself pregnant she had no trouble believing that what the angel had told her was true. But Joseph had no such assurance. He had been told in a dream by an angel that Mary’s baby was the Son of God, but surely he had doubts. For Joseph to believe, he had to have faith and to trust God’s messenger as well as his new bride.
This afternoon I’ve been listening to Christmas music and wrapping presents to the smell of a rib roast in the slow cooker for Christmas Eve dinner. The song Joseph’s Lullaby by MercyMe came on and I found myself pondering the thought of Joseph accepting Jesus as the Son of God while at the same time treating the Holy Child as his own son.
Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, “In love he [God] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:5-6 (NIV). In the same way, Joseph adopted the baby Jesus as his son, even though he knew the child was not his. In faith, Joseph raised this miracle Child as his own, teaching Him the craft of a carpenter and the love of God. In all that Joseph did as the earthly father of Jesus, he glorified God the Father.
So this Christmas, let’s remember Joseph, the forgotten character of the story at the center of all history.
I was listening to Jars of Clay the other day, and the song “Boys (Lesson One)” came on. It is such a beautiful song, and always makes me cry. The chorus and my favorite verse are:
You’ll weather love and
Lose your innocence
There will be liars
And thieves who take from you
Not to undermine the consequence
But you are not what you do
And when you need it most
I have a hundred reasons why I love you
The reason it makes me cry is because the thought that some day there will be liars and thieves who will take from my son breaks my heart. He will weather love and lose his innocence, I know that. My motherly instincts make me want to protect him from all the trials of life, but I know I can’t.
I do know, however, that God will always be with him. His faith will see him through the good times and the bad. The most important thing I can do as a mother is remind my son that I love him, and teach him that God loves him more than I ever could. I think sometimes it is hard for a mother to admit there is someone who could possibly love her son more than she does, but it’s true. God is love and His divine love is greater even than a mother’s love.
As I was listening to this song the other day, I thought of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The pain in my heart when I ponder the trouble my son will experience in this life is nothing compared to what she must have felt knowing her son was the Son of God. She didn’t just believe Jesus was God’s one and only Son, she knew with all her heart, mind, and soul exactly who He was. She heard the message of Gabriel and knew that his explanation of how she, a virgin, would be with child was truth. Nothing could ever take that away from her. Luke records that after Jesus’ birth, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 (NIV).
I wonder what she thought when she heard Him, time and time again, predict that He would be betrayed and killed? How much did her heart break when liars and thieves took His very life? How did she feel watching Him carry His cross through the streets of Jerusalem towards Golgotha? What went through her mind as Jesus, hanging on the cross, told John to care for her as his own mother? Did she know that as much as she loved Jesus, His Father loved Him more? And that He loved us even more?