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A question for all of the dads out there:  If you had to choose someone else to raise your son, who would it be?  If, for whatever reason, you knew that circumstances were going to prevent you from being able to nurture and protect the child who bore your likeness and shared your DNA, who would you select?  Your brother, perhaps?   A trusted brother in Christ?  A close friend?  It would have to be someone who you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, would raise him exactly the same way you would.  Your selection of a surrogate would be made with the utmost care and intention; there would be only one chance to get this right.

God chose Joseph of Nazareth to raise His Son.

We frequently focus, and for good reason, on God’s selection of Mary to bring the Messiah into the world, a virgin who would conceive within her womb by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Word in human flesh, Immanuel, God with us, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

But, this was a package deal.  Mary was engaged and would soon be married to Joseph, son of Jacob, a carpenter of the tribe of Judah whose ancestral home was Bethlehem, the city of his forefather David.  Joseph would serve as the protector, provider, and spiritual leader of this young family.

Joseph’s faith and character are succinctly described by the phrase, “a righteous man” (Matt. 1:19), not indicating holy perfection, but a sincere and serious desire to serve and obey the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He is not mentioned at all in the Gospel of Mark, and only in passing in the Gospel of John as people referred to Jesus as “the son of Joseph.”  It is only Matthew and Luke who, through the Holy Spirit, give us insight into Joseph’s heart and life.

Joseph is a man of few words as far as Scripture is concerned; none, to be precise.  It is rather remarkable that not a single syllable is recorded from the lips of Joseph that he spoke to Mary, the angel, the shepherds, the wise men, Simeon, Anna, the scribes in the Temple, or to Jesus.  Joseph’s actions speak louder than words!

When Joseph initially believed that Mary’s pregnancy was the result of unfaithfulness and sin, compounded by lies about an angel and the involvement of the Holy Spirit, he still loved her far too much to subject her to public humiliation.  Despite the emotional pain and betrayal that he felt, Joseph intended to put Mary away secretly, below the radar of small town scorn and gossiping tongues.  He couldn’t bear the thought of others looking at her as he did at the time.  It took an angelic visitation in a dream to convince Joseph of the truth of Mary’s story.

Four times, Joseph received messages from God via angels in dreams (Matt. 1:20; 2:13; 2:19; 2:22).  That’s twice as many dreams as were experienced by another “Joseph, son of Jacob” that we typically remember as “the dreamer.”  After each dream, Joseph responds immediately with compliance and obedience; no hesitation, no procrastination, no negotiation.  Consider it done!

Joseph led his family in the way of the Lord.   He made sure that Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day and later presented at the Temple with the sacrifice for Mary’s purification that was required by the Law (Luke 2:21-24).   He would have taken Deut. 6:7 and other texts seriously in providing spiritual instruction for his children, not only Jesus, but also James, Joses, Simon, Judas, and his daughters (Matt. 13:55-56).  The Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem was an annual  family tradition (Luke 2:41).  Based on Jesus’ performance at age 12 in the Q&A session in the Temple (Luke 2:46-47), I would say that Joseph must have been quite a good teacher!

It is assumed that Joseph died at some point between Jesus’ 12th year and the beginning of His public ministry at age 30.  Unlike Mary and Jesus’ earthly brothers, Joseph is never mentioned as being present in the ministry narratives.  The fact that Jesus commits Mary’s care to the apostle John shortly before His death on the cross serves as near certain confirmation that Joseph was no longer alive.

As hearts and minds turn to the miracle of the Savior’s birth this Christmas, I wanted to make sure that Joseph’s vital role in God’s plan didn’t just fade into obscurity in the “family photo” that was taken around the manger.  The Father handpicked Joseph to raise His Son, quite a treasure to be entrusted into one’s care and protection.  That fact alone causes Joseph’s stock to rise immensely among the Cloud of Witnesses that has gone before us.

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January 2023