Friday, December 24, 2010

The World's Best Step-Dad

This year at Christmas, Joseph has stayed on my mind. Joseph often fades into the background, far behind the baby Jesus of course, but we also hear much more about Mary, the magi, even the shepherds. I think that here, on the night before Christmas, he deserves a little attention. We don't know a lot about this man from Scripture, but the few verses we do have speak volumes of his character.

The first book in the New Testament starts out with a genealogy. For whom? Our man Joseph. He may seem like a simple carpenter, but royal blood runs through his veins. It is through Joseph that Jesus can claim his right to the throne of David, through him he can rightly be called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Joseph wasn't just a nice guy in the background. He was critical to the story of Christ.

We know his bloodline from the genealogy, but we know his heart from the next passages. He was an honorable man, respecting his betrothed before marriage. The Bible calls him a righteous man, not wanting to disgrace her publicly when he found out she was pregnant and he knew it wasn't his. Here was a morally zealous man who cared enough not to want her stoned, which would have been his legal right.

He was considering quietly getting out of his marriage contract when he received a visit. An angel came bearing the news about Mary. That was all it took. Joseph was willing to listen to the angel, to believe God and to trust Mary. Keep in mind that those around them weren't saying, "What a nice guy." In a strict moral and religious culture, he would have been the subject of ridicule and shame for his choice. He knew this, but gladly took her home to be his wife just the same.

Joseph loved and cared for Mary and for the baby Jesus, presenting him in the temple as his firstborn son. He obeyed when an angel again appeared to him to flee with Mary and Jesus. He made a home for them in a foreign land until it was safe to return.

Something else struck me about Joseph. In these days where parents rush to exploit the least bit of talent they see in their children, how amazing it was that Joseph, knowing he was raising the future King of the Universe, simply allowed him to be a boy.

Joseph was special man. Good and honorable, willing to shoulder a great deal of scorn for his choices and immeasurable responsibility in rearing God's son. We may not hear much about him in the Christmas story and he fades out view altogether after Jesus' encounter at the temple as a boy. But we can see his influence on the character and actions of the son he so dearly loved.

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