"He did what the Lord had commanded him.” (Mat 1:24)"
LISTEN: MercyMe, Joseph's Lullaby,
It can be said that the unsung hero of the Nativity story is Joseph, the human father of Jesus, the husband of Mary. Yet Joseph does not say a word in the Bible. His actions, however, speak volumes. Matthew tells us that Joseph learns that his betrothed, Mary, is found with child of the Holy Spirit. Just about any other man would have felt betrayed, angry, or sought revenge. Another man might have spread rumors. Joseph didn't do these things. We are told that Joseph was just. While it was in his rights to have Mary condemned, but he didn't seek this path. He sought to divorce her quietly. In doing so, he desired to protect her from shame and harm. Joseph was a mensch, a man of integrity and honor.
Joseph was a carpenter. He knew how to build structures. Joseph was also a spiritual carpenter. He knew how to build relationships -- a family -- with the raw materials God gave him. Joseph was precisely the man God needed for the task at hand: a human father for Jesus, the Master Carpenter, born to restore the world to wholeness.
What raw materials did God give Joseph? In addition to his upright character, Joseph had the uncanny ability to listen to God speaking to him through his dreams. He is reassured to take Mary as his wife, and to name the child Jesus. Being warned in a dream about Herod, he takes his family and flees to Egypt. Another dream assures him when he can return. Because he listened, he traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, from Bethlehem to Egypt, then back to Nazareth. Think of all that traveling with a young child! It's hard enough in our day and age to travel with the under two set. Joseph and Mary faced the inconveniences before them -- but these trials united them instead of tearing them apart. Joseph kept them safe at all costs. Not once do we hear a grumble or complaint. Joseph and Mary built a family in midst these travels -- through their trust and obedience to God and their love and respect for each other.
While there are many legends that have sprung up around Joseph; the biblical narrative alone speaks most powerfully to his character and his vital role in our Christmas story. Joseph teaches us that our character, and what we do for one another in times of dire need, have a long-lasting affect. People may not remember our words. But people will remember what we did for them to keep them safe. People will remember when we gave them a second chance or when we chose the high road. People will remember when we walked the journey with them, even at great inconvenience to ourselves. People will remember when we saved them from evil circumstances. People will remember when we gave them a home. Yes, people will remember that we have dreams for them, dreams for life and purpose -- and we will do what we can to make these dreams come true.
Have you had a dream for someone else? A dream for their future? Help them achieve it. Have you been hurt but given the opportunity to see things from God's eyes? Receive that divine vision. Have you had the opportunity to create happy memories, safe spaces for those who need them? Be like Joseph. Joseph, the carpenter, who know not only to build a house, but to build a home.
May your dreams in these final days of Advent lead you to building a home where Love can dwell, all are safe, and dreams come true.
Pray: "God, help us learn from our brother, Joseph. Make us builders of relationships where Love is born, dreams are made and where we take care of each other, in your name."