Little did I know, when I wrote it, what the impact this one little tweet: “How we handle ourselves in the midst of a miracle matters”  would have on me. As the day progressed and many of you tweeted or retweeted it, God began showing me, that My … Your … Our response does indeed matter.

 

As we read the Christmas Story in Scripture, I think it’s safe to say, that what their expectations were (or might have been) and what their reality turned out to be, was vastly different.

Do you ever have expectations that don’t match what your reality turns out to be?

I think that we all have expectations that don’t match our reality.  The question we need to ask ourselves is: “How do we handle things when our reality doesn’t match our expectations?” … Because our response does matter.

 

  • Zechariah’s response mattered: He was struck mute (and deaf as some bible scholars believe)

  • Elizabeth’s response mattered: She believed and yet remained secluded for 5 months to nurture and protect the promise.

  • Mary’s response mattered: She had a pure, innocent heart. She didn’t fully understand but she had faith. Then she surrounded herself with others who would invest and impart to her.

And then there’s Joseph.  His response mattered too.  As Pastor Daniel Darling[1] noted:

Joseph is the forgotten man of Christmas. We don’t sing his story in Christmas carols. There are no cards or poems written about him. He’s not even the most well-known Joseph in the Bible” – THAT Joseph was in Genesis.

In spite of the fact that Joseph seems to be the forgotten man in the Christmas story, he IS central to the whole story of the birth of Jesus.

The times when Joseph is mentioned in Scripture he’s doing something important.  This reminds me of the television ads in the late 70’s and early 80’s about stock broker EF Hutton.

“When EF Hutton talks – people listen.”

When Joseph is mentioned or responds to something – we need to take notice!  I want to talk about things we can learn about Joseph, and we don’t learn them from words spoken by him in the Bible. We learn them from actions he took, and often times, actions Speak louder than words.

I believe it’s a significant thing that even as God chose Mary to be the one who would give birth to the Son of God, that it’s also important that God also chose Joseph to be a FATHER to Jesus and to raise Him into manhood. Mary and Joseph were chosen together to be parents. Joseph wasn’t just some afterthought in God’s plan, and neither are we.

One reason, I feel God chose Joseph was because of his character. The way he responded in the midst of the Christmas miracle exhibits the man Joseph was.  Not just toward Mary, but toward Jesus and others. Let’s look at what the Bible tells us about Joseph.

 

As we read the Christmas Story, in Matthew 1: 18 – 24 & Matthew 2: 13 – 21 there are 5 things we can learn from Joseph on how to respond.

 

Joseph set aside his expectations

Joseph was selfless

Joseph was patient

Joseph believed

Joseph obeyed

 

 

Joseph set aside his expectations

Joseph is a man who is looking forward to life with his new wife, looking to start a family, to continue to build his carpentry business, and with the announcement of Mary’s pregnancy, all it all gets put on hold in a big way.

Joseph must have felt betrayed, when he heard the news of Mary being pregnant. According to Jewish Law, he would have been expected to publicly divorce Mary. He could have impounded her dowry, divorced her, and had her stoned.

Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:19)

However, Scripture tells us Joseph was a good man—a righteous man. He chose a more compassionate path.  He had determined to choose a quieter path.  It would have been in front of two or three witnesses. He would quietly give her a certificate of divorce and minimize her public dishonor.

 

Joseph was selfless

“When Joseph woke from sleep, HE DID as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24-25 )

Joseph is probably the most put-upon person in the Christmas story.  The whole situation has scandal written all over it, and many ways Joseph can choose to handle this situation.

It’s difficult for us to imagine the depth of Joseph’s shame at this point. In his culture, a fiancée’s unfaithfulness would imply Joseph’s inadequacy, bringing dishonor on him and his entire family. In fact, Jewish, Greek, and Roman law all demanded that a man divorce his wife or break off the engagement if she was unfaithful. Friends and relatives of Joseph would surely have mocked him and treated him with contempt.  The divorce would be an embarrassment not only to her, but to both of their families.

We don’t see Joseph asking, “Why me, God?” OR “How can this be?” Joseph is the man God chose to be the earthly father of Jesus, and all we know about him is he was a carpenter. However, we know a few other things, too. We know he has royal blood running through his veins. Matthew tells us Joseph’s genealogy runs through King David. We know also that his marriage was arranged.

He may not have been the biological father, but he was being charged with bringing up the Son of God. This Joseph, risked all to do what he felt led to do – regardless of the consequences.

The result is, that Jesus grew up nurtured in a family, with brothers and sisters, in the synagogue, protected and loved by an adoring mother and stepfather – to fulfill his destiny on earth: to be in the truest sense the Son of God and the Perfect Man.

 

Joseph was patient

But after he had considered this (Matthew 1:20).

The New King James Version says, “While he thought about these things,” and the Message says, “While he was trying to figure a way out.”

Any way we say it, it boils down to the fact that Joseph didn’t react irrationally. He didn’t make rash judgments. He wasn’t impulsive. Joseph was patient. He thought before he acted, and his patience led to an encounter with and an understanding of the will of God.

Being patient isn’t something that I am very good at, but it is a fruit of the Spirit and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I am working on it.

How many times have we blown it because we failed to be patient?

If I’m honest, it’s too many times to count. It’s during these times of learning that it may be painful, but it’s also the times that God works the greatest in our lives and that we can see great growth.

 

Joseph believed

Have you ever noticed the angel doesn’t tell Joseph “ ‘Don’t be afraid’ of me,” but rather

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20b-21)

Hmmm, this intrigues me, and gives me something to ponder.  How about you?  I have my thoughts, but I will let you contemplate it for yourself.

Joseph was instructed to put aside his fears, believe the angel, and take action.

Joseph obeyed

I think one of the most important things we can learn from Joseph, was that he obeyed.  In fact, as you read Joseph’s story, the phrase: “in a dream” occurs 5 times – 4 of which involved Joseph.  Each time, Joseph is given instructions, followed by his response of obedience.

 

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife and rising up from his bed or place where he was, immediately and without any delay (Matthew 1:24).  (see also Matthew 2:13-14; 2:19-21; 22b-23)

The reality is, we each live with a call of God on our lives to follow him and it demands our obedience too.

Being in the will of God is often not the most comfortable or convenient place to be, but it is still the best place to be.

 

I pray that as you celebrate the birth of our Savior that God would show up in unexpected but wonderful ways for you this holiday season.

 

Merry Christmas my friends.

 

[1] https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/joseph-the-unsung-hero-of-christmas–message-two–2008-daniel-darling-sermon-on-birth-of-jesus-154491

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