Everyone has their favorite person in the Christmas story. Most people love the story of the shepherds. With a tip of His hat to His beloved David, God invites the shepherds -- who most likely were tending the animals used in the Temple sacrifices -- to see the greatest sacrifice of all -- the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Some are enthralled by the mystery of the wise men. Royal strangers who traveled from a far-away place bringing gifts to the Child born King. Who were these guys? Where did they come from? What did they see in the star that led them to Bethlehem? When did they see the star? What was it about the star that intrigued them? When did they decide to follow the star to see where it would take them? What did they tell their friends and families when they got back home? Wouldn’t you love to sit down and hear their story?
Some people love Simeon. Simeon was an old man with one thing on his bucket list -- to see the Messiah for himself.
Mary is probably the most beautiful character in the entire Jesus story. No one loved Jesus like she did. From Gabriel’s announcement to the upper room after the resurrection, Mary is there through it all. Who wouldn’t want to follow Jesus with that kind of commitment and love?
Those are a few of the characters in the story. There are more. There’s the innkeeper (who’s always talked about despite never being mentioned in the story) and Elizabeth, Zachariah and some of the Old Testament prophets make cameo appearances.
For me, my favorite character is Joseph because Joseph is the one most like me in the Christmas story. Think about it. No angels sing for Joseph like they did for the shepherds. No angel announces the news to him like Gabriel did to Mary.
What did Joseph have? Two things. A baby that he knew wasn’t his and a dream that maybe God was working this way.
Have you ever tried to hang on to a dream? For nine months? You know how it goes. You remember part of it and forget part of it. You remember some of what was said and can’t remember what you said in return. Dreams, by definition, are fuzzy and hard to remember. Sometimes, they’re feelings and images, and we’re never sure what they mean. Now, Joseph seems to have had a very vivid dream, but still, it’s all he had to hold to for 9 months.
Then, there was the child. Joseph knew the baby wasn’t his. He obviously loved Mary and didn’t want to embarrass her in front of her family and friends, but would you have believed her story?
“Joseph, I’m pregnant and God is the father.”
Nope. Me neither. I wouldn’t have believed her either. But Joseph did.
You see, there was something about Joseph God trusted. Look at how Joseph is described. He’s called “righteous” and “compassionate.”
Righteousness is different than being right. Being right is getting the right answer. It’s knowing 2 plus 2 equals 4. Being righteous means you do what God wants the WAY God wants it done. It’s healing the lame man after forgiving his sins. Jesus did that the way God wanted it done. The man’s big problem wasn’t that he couldn’t walk. It was his sin. That’s why Jesus took care of that first. That’s the difference between being right and righteous. Joseph was righteous. Not only would Jesus be taught well and cared for. Joseph would take care of Jesus the same way God Himself would. That’s righteous.
Compassionate means you’ll bear the pain of being wronged rather than retaliate. It’s being able to turn the other cheek, to answer anger with a soft answer, to be able to identify with another’s failure more than the pain it’s caused you. It’s going through your life knowing your neighbors had counted to nine and figured out you weren’t Jesus’ real dad -- but loving Jesus and His mother like you were. That’s compassion.
Joseph was both. This is the man God trusted with Mary and Jesus.
And Joseph kept his end of the bargain. We think Joseph died before Jesus began His public ministry, but he was part of Jesus’ life long enough to make an impact. He taught Jesus his skill. Jesus was a carpenter because Joseph was.
He would have drilled Jesus in all of his memory verses. Think about how many times Jesus quoted Scripture from memory. Joseph, as Jesus’ father, would have been responsible for Jesus’ religious training. Joseph would have taught Jesus those verses.
When Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple, Jesus tells them they should have known He would have been busy doing what His Father wanted Him to do. Joseph doesn’t say anything. He, better than anyone, knew. Jesus was different. And Joseph, through it all, held on to the dream.
So, this Christmas season, I’ll find my place on my church pew (appropriately socially distanced, of course), and I’ll try to remember the dream given to Joseph so long ago because it’s my dream too. Like Joseph, this is all I have -- child being born in Bethlehem and a dream that God is working this way.
I can only pray, like Joseph, God will trust me with this Christmas moment.