It’s that most wonderful time of the year…Christmas! As we light our houses and buy presents for those we love, our hearts and minds focus on the real reason for Christmas…the celebration of the birth of our Saviour in the manger over 2,000 years ago. Many a play will retell the story of how Mary, a virgin, gave birth to the Son of God. We will remember the shepherds watching their sheep. We recall the wise men travelling far to worship. We even remember the innkeeper’s infamous words “There is no room in the inn.” However, few people focus attention on Joseph. I think this is sad. Why?
Because he wasn’t just your average Joe. Joseph is an excellent example of a godly man. He lived his life in complete surrender to God. He did whatever God asked of him, even when obedience involved personal sacrifice on his end. Joseph was a righteous man who loved God and obeyed Him. As we begin our holiday season, I want to re-introduces us to this incredible man of character and integrity.
Joseph was engaged to Mary as a teenager. It was probably an arranged marriage, but Joseph loved Mary very much. He prepared for his life with Mary by learning the carpenter’s trade. His future seemed clear and bright.
Shortly before Joseph and Mary were to be married, Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant. Can you imagine the feelings of anger, hurt, and sadness Joseph must have felt? He must have felt like Mary had betrayed him. Even worse, she had betrayed God’s law, which also said Mary was supposed to be stoned for her actions.
In the middle of this horrible situation, Joseph still found love in his heart for Mary. He couldn’t bear the thought of exposing her to the shame and disgrace she would experience. He still wanted to marry her, but yet, how could he? Joseph didn’t know what to do. He decided the only thing he could do was quietly divorce Mary, trying to spare her any undue disgrace. After all, he did still love her. Heartbroken, humiliated, and unsure what to do, Jospeh collapsed on his bed in exhaustion.
At this point, the Bible tells us that Joseph was visited by an angel of God.
20But 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. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."
The angel told Joseph to believe Mary…everything she had told him was true. Even more, the baby in Mary’s womb was no ordinary baby. It was the long-awaited Messiah!
Can you imagine what Joseph must have thought? It seemed impossible to be true. Honestly, would you believe it if you were Joseph?
This is what makes Joseph such an incredible man. He not only believed God, but he obeyed Him fully. He accepted the difficult life God was asking him to live. Face it, people talk. For the rest of his life, Joseph faced snickers, gossip, and shame from ignorant people. However, it was what God asked of him, and he did it.
Joseph accepted the truth about Mary’s pregnancy as fact. He believed what God said and that was that! He not only married Mary, but he abstained from having sex with his wife until after Jesus was born. He wanted God’s miracle to be just that. He didn’t allow for anyone to think that the baby was his baby born premature. He wanted people to know it was a miraculous birth. By doing this, he also opened himself up to gossip and stares, something he endured until the day he died.
This is not the only time we read of Joseph obeying God even when it cost him dearly. After Jesus was born, we read that Magi came to worship the new king of the Jews. This fact didn’t go unnoticed by the old king of the Jews, King Herod.
7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the Child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship Him."
King Herod had no intention of going to worship Jesus. He wanted to kill Him! No one was going to challenge his position of power. Jesus’ life was in danger. However, God wouldn’t let anything happen to His Son.
13When they 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." 14So he got up, took the Child and His mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod.
God warned Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and run for their lives. You have to realize this happened a year or two after Jesus was born. They were living in a house in Bethlehem, and Joseph had opened his own carpenter's shop to support his young family. Now God was asking Joseph to leave everything behind and move to a foreign country and culture. Joseph never wavered. God told him to do it, so he did it immediately. He didn’t even wait for morning. God said to go, so he went. He left it all behind. He was going to obey God, no matter the cost.
Although we read very little about Joseph from here on in, we know he was obedient to God throughout the remainder of His life. He raised Jesus as his own son. He made sure Jesus felt loved, protected and safe. He taught Jesus about serving God. He made sure Jesus learned and observed all the Jewish religious ceremonies. He took Him to the temple. He loved Him, raised Him, and taught Him his profession as a carpenter.
Joseph is one of the most honorable men we find in the Bible because he was a man of character and integrity. He had a submissive, obedient heart toward God, and a steadfastness to serve God no matter what the cost. He did whatever God asked of him. We need to learn from his example.
We need to be committed to serving God no matter the cost. We must obey Him even if it disrupts our comfort zones. No matter what God asks of us, we need to do it out of a heart of love and devotion.
Trust me, this can be hard. He could ask us to do something we don’t think we can do. He may want us to forgive someone and restore a relationship with someone we feel we can’t possibly forgive. He’s asked some to leave their successful businesses and start a totally different career. He may ask us to surrender an activity or hobby to Him. He may make us focus on an area of sin we would rather not look at. God is not nearly as concerned with making life easy for us as we are. However, when we obey God and go through the hard times He presents to us, we develop character and integrity.
God never promises us an easy life as His Sons. He does promise to be with us every step we take as we live a life of obedience to Him. So as we enjoy the Holiday Season and prepare to start a new year, let’s all commit to following Joseph’s example and live a life of obedience to God and His will, no matter the cost. Have a very Merry Christmas!!!