Summary: A life changing lesson from Joseph, the Husband of Mary. The Joseph Principle will change your life TODAY if you let it.
"But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21
The Bible doesn’t really tell us that much about Joseph, the husband of Mary, the man that would one day become the stepfather of Jesus. Legend has it that he was an elderly widow. Supposedly that explains why he was able to honor Mary’s virginity during the first months of their marriage and why he quietly disappears from the narrative sometime after Jesus becomes a teenager. But the Bible itself doesn’t fill us in on those details.
What we Know about Joseph – The Husband of Mary.
We know Joseph was a descendant of King David. We know that when Jesus was conceived, Mary was engaged to Joseph. We are told that he was a righteous man—an observer of the Law of Moses. We can surmise that he was a kind man, since he was concerned about Mary’s reputation and well-being as well as his own.
We know that Joseph spent time living in Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth. We know he was a carpenter, and we presume that he trained Jesus in that craft. We know he provided for the religious instruction of his family and fully participated in the rituals and pilgrimages of the Jewish faith.
Jesus had Brothers and Sister?
The Bible seems to indicate that Joseph and Mary had other children after Jesus was born. Not everyone agrees on this leading some to conclude, instead, that either Joseph had children by a previous wife, so that Jesus had only half-brothers and half-sisters. Others suggest that Joseph had no children and the brothers and sisters of Jesus to whom the Bible refers are really Jesus’ cousins.
There, that about sums up the facts of Joseph’s life as recorded in the Bible. When plays are written about New Testament stories, Joseph’s name never appears on the marquee. If he shows up at all, he’s always part of the supporting cast.
John The Baptist
When it comes to Advent, John the Baptizer is the leading man. He is the Advent prophet. He is the one who comes to prepare the way of the Lord, and he proclaims a fiery message of repentance. John is flashy. John may not be worthy to untie the sandal of the One who follows him, but he is clearly a central part of the Advent narrative.
When it comes to Advent, Joseph is a peripheral character indeed. He usually isn’t mentioned at all until we get to Jesus’ birth narrative on Christmas Eve. After all, somebody has to lead the donkey that Mary rides into Bethlehem. (Oh, wait a minute, the donkey is a legend, too.) Well, somebody has to find the manger.
So why am I teaching about Joseph just before Christmas? Let me tell you why. You see, Joseph isn’t flashy. He isn’t the central part of any narrative. He doesn’t proclaim anything. He’s an ordinary guy who’s just doing his best to live an honorable life. A Man who is faithful to his God and his family and respected by his peers.
That’s why. That’s why I am teaching about Joseph. Because, metaphorically speaking, most of us are more likely to find ourselves quietly leading a donkey over an uncertain path, wondering what the future might hold, than standing on a ridge, shouting at sinners. Most of us spend our lives as peripheral characters in the Gospel narrative. Most of us aren’t flashy. Most of us are just ordinary folks doing our best to live honorable lives and trying to be faithful to our God and families, and hopefully respected by our peers.
Besides, at Christmas we all could use a time of preparation and repentance, and it turns out that Joseph’s story has a few things to teach about those very things. Next week We will learn about Joseph and the fact that he was preparing his life for a future that was not what God had in mind for him. We are all like that, more often than not.
Sometimes the future you think you are preparing for is NOT what the Lord has in mind for you. Have you noticed that? Has it happened to you? How should you handle that?
When we first hear of Joseph in chapter 1 of Matthew, he is, indeed, preparing. He is preparing to bring Mary home as his wife. He and Mary are engaged. This was a more serious thing in that time and place than it is now. They did not yet live together, but to break off the engagement now would require more than returning rings and canceling the wedding arrangements. It would require a divorce. They did not yet live together, but they were legally bound to one another.