Tonight ends the second week of Advent. This week our devotional has been focusing on the men of the Christmas story. If you think about it, there were several of them. The shepherds, the Magi, the innkeeper (since the business owner was likely a man), King Herod, and the angels (since never once does the Bible refer to an angel as a woman).
And then there was Joseph. Now if you’re a church goer you’ve no doubt seen Joseph in countless Sunday School Christmas programs. There he stands in the background in the stable, stalwart, with his arms crossed, watching over Mary and the baby. He doesn’t do much, just stands there. He may have one line. Something like, “We’d like to rent a room for the night,” but that’s about it. And it may seem that he doesn’t play a very important part in the story.
And yet there was something about Joseph. Something that made him hesitant to put Mary away from him as his wife when she turned up pregnant with some cockamamie story about an angel. His inclination was to protect her from harm and humiliation. So right from the get go we get a look at Joseph’s noble character. In the end his life was turned upside down the same as Mary’s was. And I’m guessing after his vision from the same angel, Joseph took his role in the life of his “son” very seriously.
We know very little about Joseph from scripture. We see him take his new family from Bethlehem to Egypt to keep them safe from Herod. Then we see him in a panic in Jerusalem looking for Jesus when the boy stayed behind from the family caravan to teach in the temple. Joseph disappears from the story after that. It’s almost as if once Jesus steps into the shoes of his “heavenly Father” Joseph’s work as Jesus’ “earthly father” was done.
So while Joseph just seems to be a walk-on extra in this story, I think there was a depth to this man’s soul that we probably fail to acknowledge. For me it’s kind of like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. 99.9% of folks reading that book view Frodo as the hero of the saga. Not me. I always felt it was Samwise’s love and encouragement that kept Frodo going right to the very end. For me Sam was the hero of the tale. And that’s the way I feel about Joseph, too. To me, he’s the hero of the Christmas story.