Summary: Joseph’s life teaches us 3 lessons; in righteous mercy, in redemptive faith, and in ready obedience.
The Forgotten Figure of Christmas
How were you raised to regard Christmas? How are you raising your children to regard the holiday? There was once a family that celebrated Christmas every year with a birthday party for Jesus. An extra chair of honor at the table became the family’s reminder of Jesus’ presence. A cake with candles, along with the singing of "Happy Birthday" expressed the family’s joy in Jesus presence. One year a Christmas afternoon visitor asked five-year-old Ruth, "Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?" After a moment’s hesitation, she answered, "No, but then it’s not my birthday!"
Christmas is all about Jesus, yet many of the essential figures of the nativity are still recognizable, well maybe, except for Joseph.
The cast of characters associated with the story of Jesus’ birth is colorful and memorable. We recognize them by their unique speaking parts. With dramatic lines, the Angels take center stage to announce the birth of the Savior. They appear to Joseph to announce that the name of the child would be Jesus. The arch angel Gabriel makes the unforgettable announcement to Mary. An angelic choir interrupts the shepherds singing, Glory to God in the highest.
The Virgin Mary, whose Divine selection humbles her, offers her beautiful hymn and thanksgiving in Luke 1:46-48: "My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed."
The wise men are desperate in their search to find the newborn king and prepared to divest themselves of treasures to present Him with gifts of worship. In Matthew 2:2… "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
The shepherds became early evangelists! In Luke 2, the shepherds hasten to find the baby Jesus after the announcement of the angelic choir. Upon finding Jesus, Luke says, "Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child (v. 17)."
Oddly enough, only Joseph has no speaking part. He is the lone silent member of the cast and often forgotten. Angels bring heavenly greetings. Mary sings a praiseful solo. Wise men worship. Shepherds preach. Joseph is silent. No notable lines are attributed to him. No sound bites. No quotes, only silence.
However, while Joseph is the forgotten figure of Christmas, he is irreplaceable in the story of Jesus’ birth. His importance cannot be overstated. Through Joseph, God protected the unborn life of Jesus and preserved human life for the Savior.
God protects the “unborn purposes and promises of Christ” in our lives. In your life now, there is an aspect of His will yet unknown, a promise yet to be fulfilled, a word yet to be manifest – a ministry, a loved one saved, a move – but faithfully watched over and protected by God to be realized for His glory in your life.
His life teaches us 3 lessons - a lesson in righteous mercy, in redemptive faith, and in ready obedience. Each are important to preserve and realize God’s purpose and promise in our lives.
1) A Lesson in Righteous Mercy 18-19
We are introduced to Joseph in the middle of an unwelcome nightmare. Having become engaged to a beautiful young girl in the Jewish tradition, he has worked hard to establish an income to support his new bride and begin a family. He is in love. He is committed to Mary. He believed she loved him, until the news that his precious bride is pregnant.
Heart-broken and betrayed, how should he respond? Should he publicly shame her and serve her with a certificate of divorce? Should he surrender her to a public stoning? Her explanation of the pregnancy was unbelievable, even profane, and did nothing to ease Joseph’s emotional pain.
If Mary would not have been stoned on the charge of adultery, she could have been stoned on the charge of serious blasphemy. However, Joseph chooses the path of mercy…
V. 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.
It is response born of solid character. Before any divine explanation, Joseph chooses mercy. No malice. No explosion. Certainly words would have been appropriate here. How could you do this to me? Who’s the father? Tell me his name. But, no words are recorded, only tenderness. He might be the talk of Nazareth. Friends might distance themselves with snide comments, but he would not hurt Mary, no matter what he thought she had done to him.
That’s a just man! That’s a merciful man. When he could have demanded a bitter justice, he chose a righteous mercy.