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worried mother phoned the church office on the afternoon of the annual Sunday school Christmas program. She was sorry to say that her son, who was playing the role of Joseph in the Nativity scene, had a cold and was in bed on doctor's orders. "Well, it's too late to get another Joseph now," the teacher replied. We'll just write him out of the script." They did, and the sad thing is, no one missed him.
Joseph really is the forgotten man at the manger. In a well-known hymnbook containing 11 Christmas carols, there was not one reference to Joseph in their 41 verses. We sing of virgin mother and child, angels from the realms of glory, shepherds in the field abiding, and three kings of the orient, but nothing of Joseph. Oh, We know he was a common man who did not add much excitement to the scene, but to me, Joseph is the silent hero of the Christmas story.
We do know that he was a devout man of simple faith in and obedience to God. Scripture does not record any words from the mouth of Joseph, but his life is an explicit description of the life we should lead.
Our first glimpse of Joseph is in Matthew 1:19 when he discovers
Mary's pregnant condition. When he heard that Mary was expecting a child, he was going to sever their engagement, but he had no desire to publicly humiliate her. No angry response is evident, no irrational impulse. Before jumping into action, Joseph thinks about what he will do. While he was thinking about the situation, the angel spoke to him and told him what to do. Joseph repeatedly exhibited his sensitivity and obedience to
}ux legacy from Joseph is not in what he said but in what
God's directions. When God revealed His eternal purpose, Joseph gladly became Mary's husband and attended her at the hour of Christ's birth.
Several passages describe Joseph getting out of bed and immediately following the instructions given him by God. A testimony to his faith is in Matthew 2:13-14 as he quickly leaves for Egypt to protect his young son. Even though there was a large Jewish community in Egypt, a move such as that required great confidence in following the Lord's leading. There was no room for question or debate in Joseph's obedient faith.
Since no words of Joseph are
left to us, perhaps we overlook the quality of his life as an example to his family and to us. There are very few Christmas messages about such a central figure in the Christmas account. And little is said regarding his influence in the life and growth of the Lord. While theologically proclaiming the humanity of Christ, we often tiptoe quietly around it. Yet if we believe that Christ was fully human, we must believe that His human father had an impact on His development.
Scriptures give us as much insight into the life of Joseph as into that of Mary. Through the account of young Jesus at the temple we find both Mary and Joseph involved in the spiritual training of their son. Joseph led his family in being faithful to God's house.
We often see evidence of the quality of a father's commitment and consistency demonstrated in the lives of his children. How did Joseph's children turn out? Two of them, James and Jude, wrote books in the New Testament, and they committed their lives to service for their human brother and spiritual Lord, Jesus. What a testimony to a faithful father.
By heritage Joseph was in the royal line of David. By vocation he was a carpenter. The Scripture makes it clear to us that Joseph was known in his community and that he was a just man, which in those days meant he lived in a right relationship with God. Our legacy from Joseph is not in what he said but in what he did. His life was the most vocal part about him.
I guess the best word to describe Joseph, besides forgotten, is "ordinary—and who cares about ordinary people? God does! □