Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus Christ, is perhaps the most overlooked person in the Bible. I have been around churches for a fair while and can’t remember one sermon or Bible study or camp talk, or discussion, that looked at Joseph. But although we don’t know a heap about him, this Christmas there is still much to be encouraged by in his story.
In the months beforehand, I imagine Joseph would have pictured what his future might look like over the coming years: he was engaged, he had a career, he would start a family…
And then Matthew Chapter 1 happened! It says:
“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant…”
Straight away his ideas about the future must have changed!
“…she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 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.”
According to the Jewish law, Joseph could have turned Mary over to the death penalty by stoning, costing the unborn child its life as well. Here you have a bloke, being asked to believe something that has never before happened in the history of the world. Ever. That his fiancé is pregnant, but not as a result of unfaithfulness with someone else.
So, what did he do?
“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.“
In short, he did what God told him to do.
Now let’s fast forward to another one of the few passages we have about Joseph. Matthew chapter 2.
When they [that is the ‘Magi’, or wise men] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Again, what did Joseph do?
“So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.“
He did what God told him to.
Not that long ago he was walking the very pregnant Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem; now he’s leaving in the night, unprepared, on another journey, with a young child. There had been no room for them at the inn, now there was no room for them in Israel.
Joseph had gone from planning a wedding and working as a carpenter, to an unplanned pregnancy and fleeing his country and its angry king. Probably not how he had imagined his first years of marriage.
What does this have to do with you and me and COVID and our wounded industry? My point is this: Like Joseph, we all had plans. And, now 2020 has changed them all, perhaps for years.
Like Joseph, we can’t change the situation we find ourselves in. But we can decide to respond the same way he did: with faithfulness and obedience. Unlike some, Joseph belongs to the group of people in the Bible who simply obeyed God, without question or excuse.
I can’t promise you everything will work out the way you want, I doubt that this scenario was Joseph’s first preference.
But because of Christmas, we know that God loves us. The baby that Joseph kept safe in Egypt grew up. His mission as a man was to “save his people from their sins.”
Christmas is the celebration of the beginning of the story.
Jesus’s impact on the world is, and will remain, greater than any pandemic. He is still in control and he still loves you and wants to save you from your sins. This fact should bring us all joy, despite the struggles, as we celebrate and appreciate what God has done for us.