A Carpenter. A husband. A step-dad.
A harsh question, I know. But that question has weighed on my mind the last several weeks as we watch everyone prepare for Christmas.
No, I don’t really think Joseph was a fool. In fact, I believe he was an incredible man of faith, but those around him surely thought him a great fool.
Think about it…
Joseph remained with and advocated for his 15-year-old wife, who was a pregnant virgin, because two angels told him everything was ok.
He traveled to a far place, for the sake of his life and that of his pregnant virgin wife, with nothing. Not even enough money for the taxes to leave the city for a safer place after the census.
He had no ability to provide a place for his wife to birth the baby…so they end up in a barn…and by barn I mean a cave. A dark, cold, damp, cave where there are animals inside. A cave that is similar to a tomb.
After the baby is born he is wrapped in swaddling clothes. These, shrouds aren’t fluffly blankets, but are really Joseph’s dirty, worn, death shrouds , which middle eastern men wore underneath their clothing in case of death when they were traveling far distances. Swaddling a baby in dirty death clothes.
The baby is placed in a manager, which is not the cushy clean wooden mangers many of our nativity decorations depict, but a stone slab carved out to serve as an animal feeding trough. A stone trough that is similar to one found in a cave to use as a tomb.
Certainly sounds foolish.
When we take a closer look at the Christmas Story, we see baby Jesus wrapped in a death shroud, laying on a stone slab, in a cave.
Hmmmm. Sounds familiar…like another story we know that happened 33 years later.
A story of which Joseph never sees the ending.
So was he a fool or a man of great faith to believe that these happenings were for a purpose?
I believe the evidence we see is that of a man with great faith. For it takes great faith to trust that each moment, each decision, each seeming trial is made for a purpose. Especially when there is a chance we won’t get to see the ending of the story. Joseph’s great faith proves him wise because as believers we KNOW the end of the story.
So what can we practically take away from Joseph’s small, but mighty part in the story of Christmas:
Your part of the story may be small, but it has mighty impact.
Think about what would have happened had Joseph not believed the angels? Most likely Mary would have been stoned to death for supposed adultery. There would have been no baby Jesus and consequently no savior. Joseph’s story impacts not just Mary and Jesus, but all of us, including those of the poorest stations, Shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem, whom were the first to be told of the baby king by the singing of Angels.
So what of your smallness? Does it feel insignificant compared to what the rest of the world or even your friends or neighbors seem to be doing? STOP comparing your story to others and trust in the purpose of your story. Even if there aren’t angels there to cheer you on…
Honoring God is usually an act of faith because often it makes you look the fool.
What if Joseph didn’t accept the charge of being Jesus’ father? Joseph could have chosen to walk away. He could have divorced Mary. Even with the Angels visit, Joseph still had the freewill to choose. Joseph chose what would honor God instead of himself. He knew his actions to advocate for Mary would reap him consequences, but not following God would reap even more.
When we honor God by living out in words and deeds what he has revealed to us, despite how foolish it may look to the world, we are being wise. God honors our obedience and always responds. There are surprises and riches for each of us; we can’t out give the giver.
At some point we come to the place where we realize we are meant for more, much like Joseph did. More than the titles, stuff, recognition and accolades. They just don’t matter anymore. The only recognition needed is that of the Rewarder, whom we diligently seek.
Live in your purpose despite possibly never seeing the ending result of the story.
Joseph doesn’t realize it but he sees the ending result of his obedience with baby Jesus wrapped in a death shroud, on a stone slab in a cave. What if he wouldn’t have listened and obeyed in faith? We wouldn’t be celebrating Christmas or Easter.
Oftentimes as believers we look the fool, yet the things we do in our day to day lives are done in faith like Joseph…as the wise, as God’s masterpiece. We overcome trial, suffering, and the hard of this world in faith. This propels us into our purpose that others may not understand or see…and perhaps we may never see the why and wherefore of our obedient choice, but we can be sure we are fulfilling God’s purposes, just like Joseph.
God is always looking for those whose hearts are directed toward him. There will be times we will become distracted by all the things of life, but we have to be strong enough to withdraw. To be still and experience intimacy with God. So that we can hear and then follow through with his directions, in faith, like Joseph.
Questions to ask yourself:
What ventures have I dismissed in my life because they were “too small?”
Am I willing to humble my reputation and “look the fool” for the sake of being obedient to God?
Is there a breaking point to which I would not continue to follow God, in obedience, in HIS mission?