adult characters of the Christmas story are worth some attention, especially Joseph
and Mary. They were called to perceive this strange thing that God was doing in
history and then to participate at no small cost to themselves in the fulfillment
of that purpose.
had a part to play, yet he had very few lines in the birth narratives. It is disappointing
to discover how little we know about Joseph. However, we do know that he was a
descendent of David from the village of Bethlehem, and he was a carpenter by trade.
He seems to have migrated north to the hill country to a town called Nazareth
and there became engaged to a young woman named Mary. It can be inferred that
he was older than Mary, maybe a widower. It also appears that he died before Jesus
began his public ministry. We know Joseph was alive when Jesus was at Jerusalem
at age twelve. He was not mentioned in the biblical narrative. Even though there
is little known about Joseph, we do know enough to make certain claims about him.
he was a man of amazing compassion. He could easily have entered into a
rage against Mary when he heard the incredulous story of her pregnancy. He had
every reason the believe that she had been unfaithful to him. When we hurt, our
first impulse is usually to want to hurt back in return, and Joseph would have
been “right” to humiliate Mary. In fact, legally he could have had her
stoned. Yet, this is not what Joseph decided to do. He decided to “put her
a just man, he operated by a set of Laws – stone her. He exercised the law
of love and demonstrated an amazing compassion. How much of Jesus’ compassion
for the “down” was initially shaped by Joseph’s?
he was a man of incredible openness. As Joseph went about doing what he
had to do, Mary undoubtedly convinced him the story she had told him was true.
It was almost more than his mind could handle but he chose to consider the story
– to ponder, turn it over in his mind. In his narrow limits, he could have said,
“If I cannot conceive it, it cannot be.” He believed that all thing
were possible with God. He did not place limits on God’s activity in the world
around him and the world inside him.
he was a man of decisive action. We don’t need to think for a moment that
what Joseph decided to do in his situation with Mary was an easy thing to do.
This is the path Joseph decided to take – as outlandish as it must have seemed
to common sense. With nothing more substantial than Mary’s words to him and the
testimony of the dream he had, he took Mary as his wife and he followed God into
an unknown future.
Claypool tells a story of a friend of his, Bob Benson, and how Bob’s son wanted
to take speech lessons and worked hard all year at it. The grand finale of the
course was a play to be given by all the pupils, and Mike was obviously disappointed
because he was assigned a “bit part” – only three lines close to
the end. At the performance, the father told how they labored through two hours
of fits and starts, and at last, Mike’s moment came: “And he said his lines
– not too soon, not too late, not too slow – he said his lines just right.”
can be said of Joseph, and I hope it can be said of me. That at the close of the
curtains that he said his lines – not too soon, not too late, not too loud,
not too soft, not too fast, not too slow – he said his lines just right.
May the example of Joseph inspire us, that in our time and place we may not only
accept our lines, but we will say them just right.
brief provided by: David Tullock, Pastor, First Cumberland Presbyterian
Church, Cleveland, TN;