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Joseph—Husband, Foster Father, Saint

joseph In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. ~ Luke 1:26-27

When I read the Christmas story, I find myself wondering how Joseph perceived events. I mean, no guy would take kindly to news that his virgin fiance is pregnant. And to top it off, Joseph was supposed to believe that the Holy Spirit was the father? Quite a bit to swallow, that.

And yet, he did believe. With a little help, of course. It took a dream, but then the man acted. Immediately.

Joseph lived a life of unquestioning faith. We see wonderful character qualities exhibited in him:

Matthew 1:19 says that he was a righteous man. Precisely because of his righteousness, Joseph was sensitive to Mary’s plight. How did he manage this? Wasn’t he angry about the betrayal? Perhaps wanting revenge? But taking the gentlemanly high road, he somehow found it within himself to put Mary first. He made the decision to separate quietly rather than expose her to the disgrace of a public divorce. This shows amazing godly restraint and compassion.

Joseph was a man of courageous action, willing to take great risks. We see this each of the four times God instructs him via a dream. The first time, “when Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (Matthew 1:24). The second dream occurring after the Magi’s visit, “he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt” (Matthew 2:14). The third time the dream instructed him to return home, and “so he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel” (Matthew 2:21). A final dream warned him not to return to Judea. Instead, he “withdrew to the district of Galilee . . . ” to live “in a town called Nazareth” (Matthew 2:22-23). After each dream, we see Joseph acting immediately. This is a beautiful example of absolute, trusting faith.

Joseph was a reverent man. He showed the utmost respect for God’s holy purposes at work in Mary. Scripture says that Joseph, “did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son” (Matthew 1:25). He also respected God’s instructions to name the baby “Jesus” instead of naming the child himself.

No Ego

Joseph was a man of humility, one who put others first, and one who did not need to be in the limelight. He filled the role of protector for Mary and their family. In Luke we see him and Mary presenting Jesus in the temple for circumcision, and Joseph is amazed at what is prophesied about this baby (Luke 2:29-32). The last time Joseph is mentioned is when Jesus at age 12 gets “lost” during a family pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Christian tradition holds that Mary was a widow during Jesus’ adult ministry.

Reflection

What inspires you most about Joseph? As I ponder his life, I am convicted to obey much more quickly. His unwavering faith is awe-inspiring, and I find myself wanting to emulate his single-minded devotion. This busy holiday season, why not take a few minutes to prayerfully consider what the Lord is saying to you through the life of this remarkable servant.

Other interesting tidbits: Joseph was a “tekton,” or “carpenter,” a general village craftsman which may have meant working with various mediums such as wood, stone and/or metal. Early Christian tradition focused on woodworking, however, and Justin Martyr wrote that Jesus made yokes and ploughs. Interestingly, “Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph the patron of the Universal Church in 1870. Having died in the ‘arms of Jesus and Mary’ according to Catholic tradition, he is considered the model of the pious believer who receives grace at the moment of death, in other words, the patron of a happy death.” Not surprisingly, Joseph is also traditionally upheld as the model for fathers.
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