‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’
Have you ever realized that Joseph doesn’t even have a speaking part in the Bible? In Matthew 1, we see into his dreams and we certainly learn about his character from his actions, but he, himself, is silent.
An ordinary, faithful guy, Joseph was just trying to live his life. He was a carpenter, engaged to marry. He concerned himself with ‘making eyes’ at his betrothed, with building, with worship, and what he was going to eat that evening. Then suddenly, his world stopped. Mary was pregnant. The baby wasn’t his.
After what must have been an agonizing thought process, he decided that he would divorce Mary, to whom he was already legally bound. To us, it may sound cold, but it was the most gracious thing he could think to do. He could (some would argue should) have publicly disgraced her, he could (should) have had her executed- he was well within his rights. By divorcing her, the tables would turn, and he would bring shame on himself. The neighbors would talk, “What has he done to that poor girl? She’s untouchable now- and it’s probably his baby anyway… sad, really. They both have such nice parents!” Joseph was a righteous man, and doing the right thing can have hard consequences. He resigned himself, quietly, to take them all: the stares, the smirks, the whispers and rumors.
Exhausted from the stress, he fell asleep and was graced by an Angel, and everything changed. What he had worried over wasn’t going to conclude as he’d expected. And the truth, his new understanding- was it better or worse than what he’d feared? What would it all mean?
The one thing he knew (now for sure) was that God had a hand in this situation from the beginning. And so he remained faithful, and held out hope. Joseph married Mary. She had the baby, and his father named him Jesus.
Just before this passage, Matthew begins the gospel by presenting the lineage of Jesus, person to person to person… until it comes down, not to Mary, but to Joseph- and there’s a reason for that: by naming this child, according to ancient tradition, Joseph was claiming him. He was acknowledging God’s role in his son’s life, while adopting this boy as his own.
Joseph could have ignored the baby from the Holy Spirit, he could have left Mary to go it alone, but instead Joseph shows incredible faith, incredible grace. He stands up and serves as a father to the Son of God.
Without one recorded word, Joseph speaks volumes. And because of his witness, we have to ask ourselves, When circumstances throw us for a loop, are we Josephs? Dare we be? Do we look for God in the midst of our troubles? Do we respond righteously, faithfully, obediently? Are we quick to show grace?
Living God, may we be more like Joseph: slow to speak but quick to serve. In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.