Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. – Matthew 1:18-25
Jesus is the focal point of all history and especially the Christmas story. It is the story of his birth, real history. Next to Jesus, Mary seems to gain most of the attention. However, today I will put the focus on Joseph. We don’t learn a lot about Joseph in the gospel accounts. It is assumed that he died before Jesus entered his public ministry at the approximate age of 30 since we don’t read his name during the adulthood of Jesus.
I like Joseph. He is my kind of man. I think we learn some significant things about him in this passage. He had essential characteristics as the step-Dad of Jesus.
We must assume him to have been a very young man, probably still a teenager. He was a just man. He had a heart for right and wrong, and his heart was to do what was right. This exposes a man who had sobriety about life. I don’t mean that he couldn’t have fun, but that under it all, he was a serious young man.
He was a man of compassion along with his sense of righteousness. He had no desire to embarrass or harm Mary who appeared to have been an unfaithful adultress and ruined Joseph’s future. Technically, he should have exposed her and had her stoned to death as an adulteress. But he didn’t. He was unwilling to put her to shame.
This combination of being a just man and a man of compassion made him a man of honest reflection and contemplation. It was as he contemplated the painful facts that he had before him…a broken heart from a seemingly unfaithful fiance, a legal requirement of a death sentence, a stain on his future after having been so mistreated, and finally a broken heart that did not want to do Mary any harm…the angel of the Lord appeared to him. It was during this contemplation and the visit from the angel of the Lord that the insight was given to Joseph. This is not an ordinary situation. In fact, it is exceptional to the extreme. Joseph, you have been chosen to be step-Dad to the Son of God. You will be the father figure in his life. You will be responsible for training him.
Would this task not take a man of exceptional character? Did not the character of Joseph reasonably reflect the character of his God? He was just; God is just. He was compassionate and forgiving; God is compassionate and forgiving. He was obedient, the Son whom he was to raise was the only truly obedient human ever to exist.
Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him…he called his name Jesus. He will save his people from their sins, and you will call him Immanuel, God with us.
So it is as we celebrate Christmas again we are reminded that Jesus came to save his people from our sins and to dwell with us. This is indeed good tidings of great joy.