The Holy Family – Artist Unknown

The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit. So her husband, Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.” When Joseph woke up, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her 25 but did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. And he named him Jesus. Matthew 1:18-19 (CSB)

While reading the Gospel of Matthew, my thoughts wandered to Joseph and the emotional upheaval he must have experienced upon discovering Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant. Contemplating the disappointment and uncertainty that arise when our plans diverge from God’s plan, I marveled at Joseph’s reaction.

In a society where he had the legal right, according to the law of Moses, to have Mary stoned for adultery, Joseph’s response was unexpectedly compassionate. Instead of exposing Mary to public disgrace, he chose a quieter path, walking away with a shattered heart rather than seeking her harm. The compassion in his natural reaction closely resembles that of The Father’s compassion towards us. Surely, this is why he was chosen to be the earthly father of our Lord Jesus.

As I get older, Joseph is easily becoming my favorite “character” in the Christmas story. His quiet obedience speaks volumes and stirs my own faith. While we acknowledge Mary’s obedience and understand Joseph’s role in staying with Mary, raising Jesus, and imparting his trade to him, it’s crucial to pause and reflect on the enormity of what Joseph was asked to do.

An upstanding man in the community, Joseph was asked to risk his reputation to raise a child that was not biologically his; in fact, he was asked to believe that this baby was God’s Son! The pressure of being asked to guide and protect the very Son of our Creator adds extraordinary dimension to Joseph’s role. He wasn’t just called to raise Mary’s child but to safeguard the Savior of the entire world. This included journeys to Bethlehem while Mary was with child and later fleeing to Egypt to shield Jesus from King Herod’s threat (Matthew 2:13-20). Without Joseph’s protective presence shielding them from danger, who’s to say what could have happened to Mary and Jesus?

Joseph’s obedience isn’t a grand spectacle like Jesus’ glory or Mary’s sacrifice. Instead, it’s found in the steady, quiet steps of a simple “yes.” It’s a willingness to step back and humbly submit to another’s call. In Joseph’s case, he became the sturdy foundation of the holy family, ensuring that Mary had everything she needed to fulfill her calling. Let’s not allow Joseph’s obedience to fade into the background. May our own faith and response to God’s call, and the calls on the lives of those around us, be anything but ordinary.

As we reflect on Christ’s birth, we recognize that each person in the story carries a message for the Church today. Looking at Joseph, I find inspiration in his quiet strength and unwavering commitment to God’s plan. May this same spirit reside in us.

Father, thank You that we get to know about Christ’s birth and that You have a message for your Church today wrapped in each one of the people involved in the story. As we look at Joseph, I am inspired by his quiet strength and his unwavering commitment to Your plan. Do that in us, Lord. Help us to walk more like Joseph. May the Holy Spirit fill us so much that integrity, compassion, humility, and willingness to serve You flourish like wildflowers at the river. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.