When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. (Matthew 1:24)

Every Christmas season, Joseph gets the short end of the stick. I understand it to some extent. Joseph never speaks in Scripture. He’s not the one carrying the second Person of the Trinity in his womb. Besides all that, he’s not a mother. Everyone knows that without mothers, our homes (and the world) would fall apart!

Yet when we encounter Joseph in Scripture, we don’t find a distant, lazy man who rejects responsibility. We find a silent man, yes, but one who is thoughtful, responsive, kind, and obedient. In our culture today where many fathers are either absent or aloof, here is a prime example of fatherhood.

Joseph was betrothed (i.e. legally pledged to be married) to Mary. When it was discovered that Mary was pregnant before marriage, he didn’t want to make a public spectacle and humiliate her. In those days, a child born outside of marriage was tremendously shameful. Yet being a “just man,” he wanted to quietly divorce Mary, not shame her. As he gave thought to this, the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him not to fear and that he should name this baby, implying that Joseph would be the adoptive father of this child.

When Joseph woke up, he obeyed. Period. At great cost to his reputation, he took Mary and her baby in and, when the child was born, he named him Jesus, as he was told to do. In Joseph, we see a profound, yet simple example of how God calls all of his people to respond: listen, trust, and obey.

Of course, this little story is not mainly about Joseph. It’s mainly about a God who intervenes in human affairs, who interrupts our plans, who challenges our assumptions of what is good and just and what it means to follow him. Above all, this story is about a God who speaks. He spoke to Joseph in that moment, but ultimately he speaks through the baby whom Joseph would adopt. This baby would grow up into a man and call his people to abandon all to follow him. Abandon your plans, your reputation, your assumptions. Abandon yourself. God called Joseph to do that, and he calls you and me to do the same.

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Matthew 1:18-25

  1. Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes. How would you have responded?
  2. Imagine the alternative scenario in which Joseph did not obey. How would that change things?
  3. Read verses 24-25. It’s been said, “Character is who you are and your reputation is who people think you are.” What do these verses say about Joseph’s character? Why is character important to you?
  4. Is there a specific opportunity for you to listen, trust, and obey Jesus? What must you do?

From We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent

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