Skip to main content

There is a person in the Christmas story who is absolutely integral to all that took place, but is largely ignored in our celebration of Christmas, especially in song.


Of course, most of the songs and carols of Christmas are about Jesus –as they should be. He is, after all, the newborn King. We also have songs about the three wise men, songs about the angels singing (which even mention the lowly shepherds), that beautiful song about Mary, a song about the star, and even a song about some child with a drum –even though there is absolutely no biblical support for such fanciful conjecture at all. (The song didn’t even exist prior to 1941.)


But what about Joseph?


Matthew’s description in Chapter 1:19-21 of Joseph’s involvement in the birth of Jesus is brief and to the point:


“Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”


Joseph is described as “a righteous man.” And, his decision to break the engagement quietly is merciful, filled with grace, and Christ-like in the context of the time and place when all of this is taking place. Mary’s pregnancy was scandalous. He had every right to be angry, even furious, with Mary. She was obviously guilty of adultery and could have justly been stoned to death. 


But the angel comes to him and tells him this is all part of God’s plan to save his people. He doesn’t even ask “How can this be?” like Mary did when the angel spoke to her. He does exactly as the angel tells him, no questions asked.


Luke barely mentions Joseph. Mark makes no mention of him, and John barely refers to him. None of the books of the Bible mentions a single word said by Joseph. In movie terms, he is a bit player with no lines at all. 


But there is something about Joseph that is biblically very unusual.


Joseph has no warts.


Almost every other character in the Bible associated with the story of how God gave us the Messiah has some kind of character flaw: Moses was a murderer, David was an adulterer and a murderer, Solomon had issues with women, Samson had that Delilah thing (and more than a little arrogance) going on, Jonah ran away from God, and even Abraham tried to rush God’s plan by sleeping with his slave. Even Job, who is also called a righteous man, ends up questioning God and eventually has to admit that God is God and he is not.


But not Joseph. 


Not once in the Bible is there any mention of Joseph as anything but righteous and obedient. The last time he is mentioned in the Bible is Luke 2:39-52 when Mary and Joseph go back to look for 12 year-old Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem.  


In fact, most Biblical historians think Joseph died sometime between that moment and before Jesus’ public ministry started, but there is no mention of his death.


Joseph just seems to fade into the background. 


 And I think that’s the point. 


The story is not about him. This is not the Joe Show. Like John the Baptist, Joseph had a role to play, but there was a time when he needed to decrease and Jesus needed to increase.


Nonetheless, I think Joseph is a wonderful example of faithfulness and mercy and compassion and obedience and he is certainly worthy of at least one Christmas carol –and a willingness on my part to decrease while allowing Jesus to increase.



Today’s Praise

Matthew 1: 24

“When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.” (NLT)

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Ann Cunningham says:

    A great reminder that even though we do not always have a “starring role” in His Kingdom, we are nonetheless a vital part!!

Leave a Reply