It is most agreed upon that other than Christ himself, the Theotokos is the most important person in the Nativity story. There is however another important person in this story that doesn’t always get the credit (I personally feel) he deserves. If the title didn’t give it away, the person I am talking about is Jesus’s stepfather, husband of Mary, and descendent of David, Joseph the Carpenter. The reasons for his role being underplayed are obvious. For one thing, he and Christ are not biologically related. He shares no more relation with our Lord than you or me. For another thing, Joseph’s role in Jesus’s life cannot be seen to undercut the role of God the Father. Christ is the Son of God, and to put too much emphasis on his relationship with Joseph would be the wrong father-son dynamic to focus on. We worship God, not Joseph. All that being said, I think it’s time to acknowledge Joseph’s role as the protector of both Mary and Christ.
Answering the Call with Faith and Love
When Joseph came home, after he had been working and Mary had been visiting her friend, Elizabeth, he found that she was pregnant. Instead of being mad at his betrothed for this (assumed) betrayal, he feels guilty for leaving her on her own for so long and decides to send her away quietly so as not to shame her or himself. This is Joseph’s first action of compassion and protection for his future step-son.
That night Joseph is visited by an angel that tells him that what Mary says is true: she has not been unfaithful, and the child she carries is the Son of God. Once Joseph learns the truth, he is 100 percent on board with looking after and protecting Mary and her child. He takes them with him when he goes for the census and works tirelessly to find an inn for Mary when she goes into labor. As you probably already know, they don’t find an inn and instead have to settle on staying with the animals.
Joseph is very attentive to Mary and their visitors (shepherds, wise men, etc.). All the while that Joseph is attending to his wife’s needs, he is being filled with doubt by the devil disguised as an old man. Joseph ultimately chooses to ignore the devil’s doubts and continues to look after Mary and her child. At night Joseph has a dream of an angel warning him about King Herod’s plot to kill all children under two years of age. As steadfast and dedicated as ever, Joseph wakes Mary and the child, taking them toward Egypt and away from danger. Joseph did everything the Lord expected of him. He protected Mary and her son at every opportunity. He refused to listen to the devil and heeded the messages of not one but two angels.
Without Joseph’s protection, Mary would have either been stoned by her community, left in the cold to die by the inn owners in Bethlehem, or her son would have been killed by King Herod. While Mary is still the main hero of the Nativity story, it is easy to see that her role could not have been fully completed without the assistance of Joseph. Joseph is the protector and one of the heroes of the Nativity story, and he deserves more credit. As a faithful servant of God, Joseph is a role model that all husbands, fathers, and step-fathers should aspire to be like, not just at Christmas time, but all year round.
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