Joseph: Unsung Courage
|After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead." |
So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene." (Matthew2:19-23)
The Scriptures don't tell us much about Joseph and it seems that by the time Jesus began His public ministry, Joseph had already died.
Let's look at what we are told about Joseph:
- Matthew describes him as a righteous man, who, when he heard that Mary was pregnant, decided to divorce her quietly rather than create a public scandal that could have led to her being stoned.
- God speaks to him in a dream and he then takes care of Mary and stands by her in the journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus.
- He and Mary fulfill all the purification rituals in the temple, offering the sacrifices of the poorest of the poor.
- God warns Joseph to flee to Egypt because Herod was planning to kill all the infants in Bethlehem and he undertakes this hazarodous journey.
- God's angel tells Joseph it is safe to return to Israel.
- Joseph obeys his instincts about Archelaus the son of Herod and, in so doing, fulfils the prophecy of Jesus being a Nazarene.
There are four lessons Joseph teaches us:
- Joseph is an unsung hero. In a culture that was strongly patriarchal, Joseph was the last to hear real truth about Mary's pregnancy. He puts his "manly pride" firmly in his back pocket and his resolve to divorce her quietly speaks of righteousness, maturity and his true love for Mary. He plays a back-seat role and does so solidly and reliably.
- All of Joseph's promptings came in the form of angelic dreams. It takes a lot of courage to act on a dream. It would be so easy to disregard a dream as the after-effects of last night's pizza but Joseph is courageous enough to obey.
- Joseph is a thoughtful and reflective man. This is revealed in his resolve to divorce Mary quietly and his consideration of the danger represented by Archelaus. This thoughtfulness is used by God.
- Jesus was known as a carpenter. This means that He learned this significant craft and trade from His step-father Joseph. It speaks volumes of Joseph's character that he had both the humility and confidence to raise and train the One he knew to be the Son of God.
Maybe, on the brink of Christmas Eve, Joseph is the character we must hold close to our hearts. Like Joseph we must know that it is not about us. We should be open and sensitive to the prompting of the Spirit. We should use our God-given common sense to live simply and cautiously - avoiding danger and temptation - trusting that God can use our decisions. Let's remember that being parents, grand-parents, guides, teachers and mentors can be one of the greatest legacies we can ever leave.
That brings EmmDevs to a close this year. I will resume when the Gauteng schools start. May you be blessed as you celebrate Christ-mass this year. I leave you with a Frederick Beuchner quote that still grabs my attention:
The Word became flesh. Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed. Incarnation. It is not tame. It is not touching. It is not beautiful. It is uninhabitable terror. It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light. Agonized labouring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space, time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself. You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this: "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God... who for us and for our salvation," as the Nicene Creed puts it, "came down from heaven." (Frederick Beuchner)
May your celebration of Christmas be warm and blessed. Take Joseph, Elizabeth, the Magi, the Shepherds and Mary as your guides.
God be with you!