18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
I think Joseph is the most overlooked and least appreciated member of the gathering around the manger. In fact, my way of thinking posits the notion Joseph displayed more raw faith than anyone else involved in the birth of the Savior.
Mary knew the truth from the beginning. The shepherds were a group of men who all shared a similar experience. They could rely on each other for verification of the story. The Wise Men, whatever their number, had years of experience and study behind their journey. Joseph? He had only the word of Mary and a crazy dream.
If you are like me, and love the “Christmas Carol” renditions, you are familiar with the interaction between the ghost of Marley and the hardened Scrooge. When confronted with the apparition of Marley, Scrooge resists with the notion that the ghostly vision is only a dream which can be attributed to gastrointestinal issues. I can easily see how Joseph could have written off the dream as a bit of bad hummus and moldy pita bread!
Instead, Joseph used faith. Simple, unadorned, child-like faith. When the accusations started to pile up, Joseph simply walked in faith. When the clucking tongues started their gossip campaigns, Joseph ignored them and walked in faith. When the community began their ostracization ritual, Joseph pressed on in faith. He could not prove his story. He simply lived out his faith.
This year, as life crowds in and Covid just will not go away, you and I face some of the same uncertainties which glared at Joseph. We are called upon to live out the same faith which kept Joseph moving forward in God’s plan. The often-overlooked Joseph presents us with some solid steps we can take if we want to witness God’s plan being fulfilled in our lives.
First, Joseph SURRENDERED his plans for those of God. Joseph had plans for a nice, normal life. He had learned a trade, worked for the day he could get married, have a family, and live a normal life. Suddenly, through no fault of his own, God shows up and presents a life totally different from anything he had planned. Through faith, Joseph found the ability to surrender his cherished plans for those desired by Jehovah.
Second, Joseph STRUCTURED his life to accommodate God’s plan. Follow his steps. From the time God called for his surrender, the rest of his life was spent structuring his life around the Child.
It can easily be imagined Joseph finally received that large furniture order, that custom job that was going to put his carpentry business over the top. Instead of fulfilling that order and making himself financially secure, he pulls up stakes and heads to Egypt (Matthew 2:13). Setting up shop in Egypt, things start to take off when he is called upon to once more structure his life around the Child (Matthew 2:20). Even then, a detour is demanded (Matthew 2:23). Yes, following God’s plan will demand faith and endurance as we structure our lives around the call of Child.
Third, Joseph SERVED a vital role in our salvation. Without his display of faith and devotion to the Child, it is highly likely Jesus would have been killed by the enraged Herod. Although dead by the time Jesus began His public ministry, Joseph was nonetheless present every time a miracle took place. Every miracle, every teaching, every touching moment in the life of Jesus had the thumbprint of Joseph. His life, his display of faith, made possible the salvation you and I enjoy.
In this troubling Christmas season, perhaps God is calling each of us to a place of SURRENDER, STRUCTURE, and SERVICE. A faithful response on our part, mirroring that of Joseph, will enable us to please God and serve Him well.