I’ve heard the story many of times of Jesus’ birth and God’s promises that lead to that wonderful moment when the Messiah entered the world. Often times I’ve reflected on Jesus, many times I wondered how Mary must have felt facing what seemed to be a scandal to outsiders, many times I’ve mentioned that Joseph was there with Mary but it wasn’t until after a Bible Study I attended last week, that I’ve ever really given thought to how important Joseph was to the story and how special he really was.
The (abbreviated) story begins with a young virgin who is promised to be married to a man named Joseph. An angel appears and tells her she will give birth to the Son of God. Joseph decides to quietly leave, trying to bring as little shame to her as possible. Then an angel appears to him and he takes Mary home as his wife. We can assume in those days scandal erupts, yet God’s promise is being fulfilled in all of it. They travel to Bethlehem for a census. Mary gives birth and the Son of God is placed in a feeding trough because there is no room for them. Shepherds come. Wise men come. The baby is Immanuel, “God with us.”
It’s a mind-blowing story, really. Why would God send the Messiah in such a way? Why an unmarried virgin? Why scandal? Why a feeding trough meant for animal use? Why dirty shepherds? This was God’s Son after all.
I wonder how Joseph felt about all of it. Mary was chosen by God to carry his Son, but what role would Joseph play in this? It was brought to my attention that Joseph’s role was very similar to that of a step-dad. Maybe he wasn’t Jesus’ Father but it wasn’t just any man that could be chosen to raise the Son of God. Joseph was the ultimate “step-dad” and he was hand chosen to be part of God’s promise fulfilled through His Son. He would fill the role of dad, he would teach Jesus how to be a man, he would teach him about relationships, he would teach him how to be a provider and carpenter, he would be there when Jesus had questions, he would offer comfort when Jesus was afraid, he would pick Him up when Jesus fell down and scraped his knee, he would accept Jesus as his son. This wasn’t a job for just anyone, this was a job for a special man… a man named Joseph.
Through Joseph we see this beautiful picture of family. Something we are understanding more and more is that families don’t always look the same. Many children have step-fathers and step-mothers. Those men and women hold a special job. Some have a shared hand in raising children, some have to take on full responsibility of the parent, but in all those unique situations, this step-parent has the opportunity to occupy a special place in a child’s life. Joseph stepped in and filled this role to its fullest extent. What a special man who filled a special role and filled it well even from the very beginning.
I think from now on I’ll look at the nativity set a little bit differently. Both parents, Mary and Joseph, were chosen by God to parent the Savior of the World. I think maybe even in my own life, I’ll remind myself of how precious that role of father is. I think I’ll show my appreciation for my own a little more, I’ll show the father of my own children just how important he is to our family. Without Joseph, there would have been a void in Jesus’ life. He was chosen to fill a special place in the life of the Messiah, and so he did.