Joseph: the unappreciated participant in the Christmas pageant
LEWISVILLE, TX: With grace and humility, Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary, laid aside personal humiliation and embraced Mary’s version of her pregnancy. While Mary gets most of the attention in the Christmas pageant, Joseph’s faith in God and love for his bride has made him a father of all fathers—a saint indeed.
Joseph stared through the vine-laced lattice awning at the stars blanketing the heavens. He’d chosen a far corner on the roof to sleep, away from the area where his brothers would soon lie down for the night.
The air was quiet, the wind still except for occasional screeches of a falcon in the distance. Peace invited much-needed reflection. The consequences of Mary’s circumstances required serious thought—and Joseph found himself pondering the most serious questions of his life.
What does God want?
“Mary deserves punishment for her sins. But death? I could never ask for that, no matter what she’s done or how angry I may be. Perhaps if I put her away, we can both avoid further disgrace.”
Joseph sat motionless as he struggled. His emotions were at war, and he could feel the pulse of blood in his head. As his mind grappled with doubt, anger, fear, protectiveness, confusion, and heartbreak, his body gave way to deep sleep. He had no awareness of how long he slumbered before a quiet, persistent voice broke through his sleep.
“Joseph, son of David. Joseph. Joseph.”
He struggled to recognize the calm yet commanding voice. Fighting to awaken, Joseph knew he was not dreaming. His head was pounding from resting against the stone wall behind him, and his left arm was numb. He shook it to bring it to life, and burning prickles hammered through and burning prickles hammered through his muscle. Yes, this was real. He looked around, seeking the source of the mysterious voice, but a brilliant light blinded him.
“Who is calling me?”
A memory flashed as thoughts collided in thunderous impossibilities.
Mary told me of her encounter with a stranger, an angel. I dismissed it as an absurd excuse for her betrayal. This cannot also be an angel!
Joseph hesitated and then spoke. “Here I am, my lord!”
His mind struggled like a dying fish as he fought to come to grips with the bizarre vision before him.
What does this mean? Is this an angel from God? But why would an angel appear to me?
“Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”
The voice was not audible, yet he had heard it.
Joseph swallowed. God apparently understood his fears and knew that he was struggling to trust Mary and believe what she had told him.
So God has sent an angel to tell me that what she told me is true. Mary has not betrayed me. God chose her to give birth to the Messiah, my betrothed. And He chose me, Joseph, a carpenter, to be the child’s father.
He strained his eyes and tried to look into the light, but the brilliance was blinding.
“She has conceived a child by the Holy Spirit. God has chosen her to be the mother of His Son. You and Mary are God’s chosen family. Be of good cheer, Joseph. Mary has not betrayed you.”
Joseph blinked, and his legs weakened as he shifted his position.
The voice continued,
“It will take time for your child’s mind to develop and to mature into a man. Through Him, God will redeem humankind.”
Joseph’s thoughts swirled like a streamside eddy as he grappled to make sense of what the angel had told him. Does this mean I will be the child’s father and train him as he grows? How could I be worthy of such a responsibility? It is impossible! Mary and I are people of humble birth.
The face of Abba Jacob flashed through Joseph’s memory, and then he felt a flood of guilt as he recalled the disappointment his earthly abba had expressed when Joseph announced he wanted to be a carpenter. He’d carried that guilt ever since, and he certainly didn’t want to disappoint his heavenly Av in raising His Son.
The light faded to darkness again.
Joseph stood and walked to the area where he and his brothers slept. He unrolled his sleeping mat and lay down, still engulfed by darkness. He rubbed his eyes and forced them to open again to the familiar sight of the roof—empty. His brothers had still not come to the rooftop to sleep.
If that was a dream, it was unlike any other. Was it a message from God? If so, another angel must come to tell me what to do!
With his mind in turmoil, Joseph pondered what he’d experienced.
Question after question rolled through his mind as he pulled one of Ima’s heavy woven sleeping blankets over his body to protect him from the cold night air. He was once again awake, alone with his thoughts beneath a night sky illuminated only by the stars. The knots in his stomach slowly released their grip.
Yahweh sent an angel to speak to me in a dream.
He answered my prayer to show me what to do. To give me peace. To show me my part in His plan. Now if He will just show me how to do it.
Joseph’s strength drained. If he hadn’t been lying down, he’d have collapsed. A profound sense of humility settled over his heart like a shroud. Then, as he grappled with the full significance of what had happened, his heart exploded with joy, and he shouted into the night air.
“Praise God, who fulfills His promises to His people. Through your mercy may You find me worthy, Yahweh. And thank You! Deep in my heart I trusted that Mary couldn’t betray me! I pray she will forgive me for my anger.”
Joseph’s thoughts cleared.
Mary and I don’t have the wisdom to raise God’s Son, but we can and will do whatever God trusts us to do.
With no thought for the hour, he threw back the blanket, leaped from his sleeping mat, and headed toward the rooftop stairs. He couldn’t wait until morning; he had to see Mary.
The author’s historically-based novel, They Called Him Yeshua, gives insight into the inner struggles of a godly man whose feelings of betrayal gave way to faith in God.
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