The Characters of Christmas – Joseph


There was a man who lived in Nazareth, a carpenter by trade, who, in another time and another place, might have had a very different occupation. This man could have been king of Israel. He was a direct descendant of King David through his son Solomon. If the Romans hadn’t conquered Israel Joseph may have been king instead of a carpenter.

Joseph was a godly man who knew God’s word and obeyed God. He not only obeyed God, but he also obeyed the government that God placed over Israel. He was a just man who took his responsibilities seriously.

Joseph was espoused to a girl named Mary, a virgin also from Nazareth. She, too, was a descendant of King David but not of the kingly line. He loved her deeply and was looking forward to making her his wife. He must have been devastated when Mary told him that she was pregnant. She must have told him that this baby was from God and not from a sexual relationship with another man. She must have told him about the angel Gabriel’s visit and what he told her. But Joseph’s mind was still in turmoil. How could she have done this? She knows the punishment according to the Torah for fornication was death. Should he divorce Mary or quietly put her away? After all, he had his own reputation to consider. Joseph’s sleep that night must have been fitful with much tossing and turning. Then an angel of the LORD, quite possibly Gabriel, came to Joseph in a dream confirming what Mary had told him. Being obedient to God, Joseph took Mary as his wife. We’re not told at what point in Mary’s pregnancy they got married.

Word came from the Roman emperor that all men were to go to their home city, the city of their ancestors, to be counted for tax purposes. Joseph knew that Mary’s time was near and probably would have done all he could to let her stay in Nazareth while he took part in the census. Mary, however, refused choosing to go with Joseph to Bethlehem, a very long journey for a woman about to give birth to a baby. The Bible does not say that Joseph had a donkey for Mary to ride, but Joseph’s concern for Mary was great enough for us to assume that he did something so Mary would not have to walk the distance. When they arrived in Bethlehem they were tired and needed a place to rest. The baby was coming soon, maybe even that night. Joseph went from inn to inn looking for a place to stay. But no place was available. No room could be made for the couple soon to have a baby. Finally someone said they could sleep in his stable. They gladly accepted. Joseph made a place in the hay and straw for Mary and him to sleep. Sometime while they were staying in the stable the baby Jesus was born.

Sometime after Jesus was born Joseph found a house for the family to stay. When Jesus was forty days old, Joseph and Mary took Him to the temple to offer the sacrifice redeeming the first-born male as required by Jewish law. It is safe to assume that the wise men did not arrive before this event because of what happened after they left. The Bible does not say how long Joseph and Mary lived in Bethlehem before the wise men visited. It could have been as long as two years, because Herod killed every boy baby two years old and younger, but not less than forty days. Sometime after the wise men arrived and quite possibly that same night, Joseph had another dream. In it he was told to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt because Herod would try to kill the baby. The little family fled to Egypt and stayed there until Herod died. After Herod’s death Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Nazareth.

We’re not told much about Joseph after he and his family returned to Nazareth. We do know that Joseph and Mary had a number of children together, a number of Jesus’ half-brothers being mentioned by name in the Bible. We also know that Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem every year, at least until He was twelve years old, for the Feast of the Passover. After that time Joseph is never mentioned again. Some speculate that Joseph died fairly early in Jesus’ life. They say that Joseph was anywhere from twenty to forty years older than Mary and died of old age. However, it is not unreasonable to believe that Joseph and Mary were much closer in age. Carpentry can be a hazardous job, and Joseph could have died in a carpentry accident. Or Joseph could still have been living when Jesus died but was never mentioned because he did not factor in any more of the stories told in the Bible. It is impossible to say for sure because the Bible is silent on the issue.

Joseph, because of his obedience to and love for God, was given a very important job, raising the Son of God. It must have overwhelmed him at times, but God was with Joseph guiding him all the way and giving him the wisdom needed to do the job.

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7 Comments »

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