By: Dave Kother
As we read the Advent story throughout the gospels, not only is the story of Jesus coming to earth an incredible and miraculous event, but the stories of the characters within the narrative are equally important. Some of the characters have more significant roles than others, but all of them show, in many ways, how God has used these seemingly minor characters in His plan of salvation.
By the time we read about Joseph in Luke’s gospel, he is dealing with a dilemma that was not of his making and one that might have ended differently.
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
(Luke 2:1-5, English Standard Version)
Joseph’s life was in a state of upheaval because of the Roman mandate that forced him to pack up and travel to his hometown and because of the state of his betrothed wife, Mary. Matthew‘s gospel gives us some background on how Joseph had reached this point of their arrival in Bethlehem:
18 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, English Standard Version)
Joseph is a quiet, kind, impressive, underrated man facing incredible drama in his life. I’m sure he had many sleepless nights as he pondered the situation with his wife, Mary, and Joseph. He is facing this drama with quiet dignity and is considering what he must do with what he is faced with. As he considers these things, an angel of the Lord visits him in a dream. That angel addresses Joseph in a way that no one else was addressed in all of the gospels except for the Lord Jesus Christ; the angel addresses Joseph as ‘son of David.’ This title is an incredible honor to Joseph and perhaps a reminder of his genealogy throughout the ages, something I’m sure was far from his mind at the time. God graciously reminded Joseph of who he was and addressed him with the distinction of his lineage. The angel then encouraged Joseph about what the Lord was doing and gave him instructions on what to do.
When Joseph hears this message and realizes that this child would be the fulfillment of prophecy from hundreds of years prior, there is no more wondering about what is going on. Joseph obediently does what the angel of the Lord commands him, takes his wife, and cares for her. Soon after they arrive in Bethlehem, Mary gives birth to that promised son:
6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
(Luke 2:6-7, English Standard Version)
As the angel told him to, Joseph calls his name Jesus, which means ‘Jehovah is salvation.’ The prophet of old said his name would be Emmanuel, which means ‘God With Us’. In these two names with their two meanings, God‘s one mission of saving the world from sin is revealed. Joseph obediently follows God’s will in his small role in this plan and takes full ownership of this situation. He could’ve done other things and would have been justified in them, but he follows God’s word in his quiet obedience.
The Christmas story is not one of silent nights and quiet snowfall scenes; it is an incredible invasion by God into our world in ways that bring upheaval and often questions. God‘s plan is working in absolutely unbelievable ways, even if we don’t understand how they affect us. When we listen and obey the god of the universe, we will better understand what He is doing.
About the Author: Dave Kother, or ‘DK’ as he’s known to Millington’s AWANA kids, has worked for the City of Linden as a police detective for over 28 years. He and his wife Denise live in Scotch Plains and are blessed with four children.