There is little known about Joseph, earthly father to Jesus. He comes on the scene when we learn that he was engaged to Mary. By cultural standards, Joseph was probably much older than Mary. Mary, by contrast, may have been as young as 14 or 15. The marriage would have been pre-arranged by the two families. It’s possible that Mary had been promised to Joseph from the time of her birth.
Joseph would have grown up knowing that one day, Mary would be his bride. We know that Mary was an honorable person. We know this because the angel that appeared to her said in Luke 1:28, “Greetings favored woman. The Lord is with you.” She would not have been given such an accolade by God if it were not so. Therefore, Mary had to have had a wonderful reputation. We can imagine Joseph’s anticipation to marry such a good and well thought of young woman.
Then comes the shock of a lifetime: Mary confesses that she is pregnant! In that culture, such an incident was considered a tragic shame upon the family; even a crime. Mary could have been stoned to death! What did Joseph do? Even with his own broken heart, he did not want vengeance upon Mary. He planned to quietly send her away to have her child, the engagement broken, and with the passing of time all would be forgotten. That was Joseph’s plan but it was not God’s plan.
In a dream, an angel of God spoke to Joseph and told him to take Mary as his wife, that she had not been unfaithful; she was in fact, pregnant by the Spirit of God. Wow! What did Joseph do? He believed God, and continued with the marriage plans.
While all this was going on, the Roman government announced that they were going to take a census. Every man had to return to the place of his ancestral birth to be counted, along with his family, in the census. Since Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem. He took Mary with him.
Imagine the difficulty of the long journey. Mary, heavily pregnant, rode atop a donkey all the way to Bethlehem. Her time to give birth was drawing near. Joseph went from hotel to hotel, but because of the census, the town was overrun with visitors. There was no room anywhere. We could understand if Joseph became so agitated that he questioned God. After all, why would God lead them along such a journey if Mary was, in fact, going to give birth to the Christ-child? It didn’t make sense; however, we see no indication of Joseph losing faith. He did the best he could, being given a stable to house in for the night. He must have made a bed of hay for Mary to lay in. Then, the baby came. Joseph delivered this God-child and prepared a bed of hay for Him, too. As he had been instructed by the angel, Joseph named the baby, Jesus.
How perplexing it must have been, but Joseph believed God and trusted Him, even in the midst of such hardship. At some point after the birth, the census complete, Joseph and his family were still in Bethlehem. He was a carpenter. He must have started a business. When Jesus was about 2 years old, Mary and Joseph and Jesus were living in a house. (We know this from Matthew 2:11). Joseph the carpenter was providing for his family. Then, another dream comes to Joseph that will upset their peace and tranquility.
An angel appears in another dream, instructing Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and leave immediately! Go to Egypt! Imagine this incident. Joseph has accepted Mary as his wife in the midst of her pregnancy. He takes Jesus as his own son. He has started his carpenter business, and what happens? He’s told to pack up and leave everything because the King will attempt to kill Jesus! We would have understood if Joseph protested saying, “Lord, I just can’t leave my business. How will I provide for my family? I have orders to fill. How will it all look? Isn’t there another way to keep my family safe?” However, there is no record that Joseph argued with God. What did Joseph do? Exactly what God instructed him to do. He left everything and went to Egypt, not returning to Israel until God told him to do so.
What a wonderful example we have in Joseph. In the midst of all he did not understand, he chose to trust God. In the midst of gossip that would have run rampant over Mary’s pregnancy, he trusted God. In the midst of hardship, he trusted God. In the midst of danger, he trusted God. In the midst of losing his business, he trusted God.
What was God doing in the midst of all this upheaval? He was doing what He always does in the lives of His children; He was guiding, protecting, providing, and blessing with His own peace and courage, all along the way.
God hasn’t changed the way He works. He still guides us today. Even when situations look grim to our eyes, when danger lurks, when gossip fills the air, when friends and family betray us, when our future appears grey. Our Father has us in His hands, holding us close. He is always leading and watching over us. He loves us and cares deeply about all our concerns. He is our joy. He is our peace. He is our courage. He is our Savior. He is our everything to get us through anything.
How lovely that Jesus came. How life changing to know Him. Merry Christmas everyone!