Not Your Average Joe

This time of year our focus is on the baby in the manger and rightly so. We also give special attention to His virginal mother, Mary. But what about the third part of that holy family?

You know who I’m talking about. That stand in the background out of the spotlight guy named Joseph.

Maybe he was an introvert by nature. Maybe not. I really don’t know a lot about Joseph simply because there isn’t much written about him in the scriptures.

When you really think about it, Joseph must have been a truly amazing guy for God to have picked him to be the earthly father of His only son, Jesus. God could have picked absolutely anyone for the job – a king, a statesman, a rabbi, a rich man.

But He didn’t.

He picked Joseph. And by all accounts he was just an ordinary, average Joe.

A carpenter. A man who worked with his hands.

What was so different about Joseph’s character that he was the one to make the cut above all the others?

In the first chapter of Matthew, the nineteenth verse we can gain a few clues to his character. Matthew writes that Joseph was as a righteous man.

To be righteous means to be in right standing with God. Joseph loved God and did what His law commanded. He could stand before God and say, “Everyday I’m doing my best to do what you’ve asked of me.”

Not really so ordinary, is it?

When I read further I find how he dealt with a problematic situation.

You see, his fiancé Mary had given him some troubling news.

She was pregnant.

And the baby wasn’t his.

But it got even stranger than that.

Not only was she pregnant, but she claimed that she was still a virgin and had been chosen to give birth to the very Son of God.

I can only imagine the look on Joseph’s face when she dropped that little bombshell. He must have thought she was slightly delusional. After all, hadn’t she been visiting her relative Elizabeth for the past three months? Had something happened to her there that she just couldn’t bring herself to admit?

You know that if this happened in our present day he might have suggested that she be psychologically evaluated or at the very least have insisted upon a DNA test to determine paternity. This had Jerry Springer written all over it.

But as I read on I see his reaction isn’t one of anger or betrayal. It is humility and love.

Yes, he’s going to break it off with her, but he’s going to do it quietly. In those days, under the law those who became pregnant outside of marriage could have been stoned to death. But for Joseph to marry her after she had revealed her pregnancy was to say that he was the responsible party in the matter.

But Joseph was a righteous man. He was in right standing with God. He followed the rules and would have never been intimate with his fiancé before marriage.

So what to do?

The scriptures say he considered what to do. He gave it some long, hard thought. He knew what he must do. Out of compassion he would let quietly her go.

However, all those hard, thought out plans changed in an instant when he got a visit from an angel of the Lord. Everything Mary had told him was validated by that angel. Joseph was to take Mary as his wife, raise the boy as his own and name Him Jesus.

Did you get that? He was to be the adoptive daddy to the Son of God.

Jesus, the Savior of the world.

My Savior. Your Savior.

Joseph’s Savior.

Definitely not your average Joe.

 

 

 

 

This is not My Home

I received a text from my younger daughter this morning telling me she had missed her flight out of Miami and would now be spending the day in the airport waiting for a flight home. I could sympathize with her frustration. A couple of years ago I had a similar experience when I missed a flight home out of La Guardia. I had been in NYC with my two sisters visiting family and enjoying the city. As we arrived at the airport to depart for Indianapolis we encountered a problem with airport security. The airport officials had closed down the check-in line we were in and when things were finally settled our plane was already in the air.

We spent the next several minutes haggling with an airport agent trying to book a flight home only to be told there were no seats available on any outgoing flights that day. Although my younger sister was able to secure a flight, I was told by the agent that I should “just go home and come back tomorrow.” All I wanted to say was, “This is not my home!”

I wonder how many times that thought has flashed across the minds of others. Is that what Abram thought when God called him into a new land? Genesis 12:1 records that, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” What was Abram thinking when he heard that call to leave his home and family? Did he think “This is not my home?”

Or what about Mary and Joseph when they fled to Egypt with Holy baby in arms? They went in the night to escape the wrath of an insane king, but I can’t help but think that they were wondering about the home they had left. What blind faith it took to follow after the voice of an angel in a dream to a strange, new land. A land that was not their home.

In truth, we too are wanderers in a place that is not our home. The struggles we face remind us that our temporary home on this beautiful blue marble is an imperfect place. A place where physical and spiritual hunger abound. Our need is great, but God’s grace is far greater. And as I reside in this land of earth and sod I pray that I can listen closely to God’s call on my life. I want to hear Him when calls me to a new land.

But not only that. Lord help me be willing to travel to the foreign spaces. The places where only You can lead me. Father, help me to go willingly to where the unknown opportunities of ministry await, because I know that is the only place where I will truly be at home.

I Wonder?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary lately. Wondering what was going through her tender teenaged mind. Knowing that many, if not most, of the people in her small town doubted her story. It wasn’t the first time that two people in love, pledged to be married had found themselves in this predicament. A baby on the way before the official ceremony, but the story she told, well it was ridiculous. Really it was more than that, it was completely unbelievable. After all, why would she above all other young women be chosen to carry the son of God? Was she able to hold her head high amid the gossip? Did her friends believe her story or did they nod in support only to secretly question her honesty?

In the last days of her pregnancy did she resist the urge to complain as she made the laborious journey to Bethlehem? When they arrived in the small city overflowing with people did panic begin to set in when she realized that she was going to be spending the night in a barn? And when the pain of labor overwhelmed her did she cry out for her mother as Joseph attempted to do the job for which he had not been trained? Was there ever a moment when she thought that surely God would have made a different provision for His son?

Sweet Mary, mother of God, when you held your beautiful son for the first time, did you know then what was in store for your baby Jesus? Did the barn’s beam cast a shadow of the cross over the manger where you laid him? Or in the Father’s great mercy, did God conceal this information?

Thirty years later as you stood at the foot of the cross did your mind flash back to the starlit stable where shepherds sought out the King? Did you wonder why the angels who had pronounced his birth did not fall out of heaven to rescue Him from death? Mary, most blessed among women, what a heavy burden you were called to carry. I thank you darling sister in Christ, for being faithful to God’s call; for believing the promise and yielding up your life to God’s holy plan. May I follow your example of selfless love.