MATTHEW 2:19-23: “When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.” NLT
OBSERVATION: Who do you think of when you contemplate the Christmas story? Of course, our thoughts go immediately to Mary and the baby Jesus. The Shepherds in the field who met the angels are another favorite. And, let’s not forget the Wise Men from the East! Yet, there is one other prominent figure we do not often focus on.
That is Joseph!
Joseph is the unsung hero in the Christmas story. He is a man from the lineage of King David. He is also an honorable and trustworthy man. Betrothed to Mary, and learning that she was with child, Joseph determined to privately break the engagement and keep Mary from a public scandal. Yet, when the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and that the child would be great and redeem Israel from their sins, Joseph obeys the Lord and takes Mary as his wife. He also forgoes any marital relations with his wife until the baby is born.
- “As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins…When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.” Matthew 1:20-21, 24-25 NLT
How would the Christmas story have changed if Joseph was unwilling to humble himself and obey the Lord? It took great humility and obedience to take a pregnant wife and father a child that was not yours. It also took great faith to believe in the promise that was spoken by the angel of the Lord in his dream. This character would prove to be so important in the ensuing years.
Fast forward from the manger to Jesus as a toddler. Unlike our traditional nativity scenes, the Wise Men visited Jesus when he was probably under two years of age, and when Mary and Joseph were now living in a house in Bethlehem. The Wise Men had inquired of Herod where the Messiah would be born. Their inquiry, and the star they followed, led them to this small family in Bethlehem. Herod had instructed the Wise Men to bring back a report. His intent was not to worship Jesus but to kill him. God warned the Wise Men and he warned Joseph.
Joseph is once again asked to pull up stakes, interrupt his life, and walk by faith. The Lord again warns Joseph in a dream of Herod’s plot. Joseph, in obedience, takes Mary and Jesus to Egypt. They escape the massacre of small children in Bethlehem. When Herod dies, an angel appears in a dream once again to Joseph. Joseph is called to return to Israel. In less than two or three years, Joseph and Mary go from Bethlehem to Egypt, then Egypt to Israel. Yet, their journey is not over yet.
Once again the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him to leave his hometown region of Galilee and settle in Nazareth. By this time, if I were Joseph, I would be asking – “Lord, are you sure this time?” Yet, in these opening pages of Matthew, we read of Joseph’s unwavering humility and obedience to the Lord. As he obeyed God he positioned his family under God’s grace and care. Joseph’s obedience is often unnoticed. Yet, his obedience to the Lord was just as important as Mary’s when she submitted to God’s calling upon her life.
Joseph did not do anything grandiose. He simply lived a life of faith and obedience. Yet, his simple obedience kept his young family, and the Savior of the world, under God’s protection and care. Joseph’s obedience was moment by moment. He did not question the Lord. He simply obeyed. His life is a lesson of faith for all of us. We don’t have to move mountains to change the world. All we have to do is listen to the still small voice of the Lord – and obey!
This Christmas, as we look at the nativity scenes all around us, as we ponder the Christmas story, let’s remember the story of Joseph. A humble carpenter, standing faithfully next to his wife, taking responsibility for a child he did not father, and leading his family faithfully, step by step, in obedience to the Lord.
Lord, help me to be like Joseph!
In Jesus Name!