The Patience of Joseph
The day was not off to a stellar start. Joseph was on his way to Bethlehem to pay his yearly taxes to the Roman Government. Every male was required to return to the place of his birth to make payment. To make matters more challenging, he was traveling the eighty miles from Nazareth with his very pregnant wife, Mary. When the couple did finally arrive late in the evening, the Motel 6 innkeeper had failed to “leave the light on”. Bone tired, Mary and Joseph made do, they bunked-in with the animals out back. Of course, you know the rest of the story.
In all likelihood on Christmas day you will be involved in a myriad of activities: Unwrapping packages, saying things like, “I’ve always wanted a pea green designer sweat suit.” (So, you lie a little), stuffing a baker’s dozen of trash bags with torn wrapping paper and wondering if you should have kept the bows, phone calling friends and several relatives you only vaguely remember wishing them “Merry Christmas and I hope you will come see us soon” (you lie a little more), and remembering how much you like or hate cornbread dressing and canned cranberry sauce.
You also thought about the Christ Child, and the Shepherds in the field. At some point during the season you no doubt have given thought to the Virgin Mary and her visit with the angel Gabriel. And you probably read her great proclamations, the Magnificat. I’d wager you have already reflected upon the coming of the Wise Men that came to see Jesus months later. I bet you even wondered just what is frankincense?
But I bet there is one character in the Christmas story you haven’t given a second thought, Joseph—the earthly father of Jesus. If you are like me, you have taken Joseph for granted. Would it be going too far to suggest he’s the Rodney Dangerfield of the Christmas Story? He gets no respect.
Have you ever thought about what must have gone through Joseph’s mind when Mary approached him saying? “Joseph, I’m pregnant. Not to worry, you are not the father and I have not slept with another man. The father of the child is the Holy Spirit. An angel told me.” Or, to put it in a context closer to home, “What if your fourteen-year-old daughter approached you with the same story?”
A much lesser man would have broken the engagement on the spot. And with good reason. Joseph could have easily accused her of being unfaithful and insane. No one would have blamed him for breaking the engagement. Can you imagine the ribbing and ridicule he must have taken from his buddies and “friends” down at First Church Synagogue?
Matthew tells us that Joseph, not wanting to expose Mary to public disgrace, chose to stay with Mary. He stayed. He was there. When it was time for Jesus to be delivered, Joseph was there. When young Jesus was left at the Temple after Passover, Joseph returned with Mary to find their son. He was there. Joseph earned his livelihood as a carpenter. As was the custom of the day, he taught his craft to Jesus. No doubt, teaching an adolescent, even if he was the Son of God, the skills of carpentry required great wisdom and patience. Joseph was there.
So, what is the point of this day that we celebrate the greatest gift of all—the birth of God’s only son? God gives us many gifts. Some that are overt and obvious, some that are nearly invisible. Frequently we don’t know they are there, unless we stop and look. Joseph is a great example. He was always there. He never received great accolades. But, he was always there.
On Christmas day, as things settle down and become quiet—if but for a little while—take a few moments to be thankful for those people God has placed in your life. These individuals that were there and continue to be there. While things are still quiet, it might even be a good time to pick up the telephone one more time and call a couple of people you didn’t think to call and say,
“Thanks for being there so many times. It’s been a great gift. I’d have never made it without you.”