“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (Matthew 1:24).
Joseph has become one of my favorite real-life characters from the first Christmas.
Ready to serve
Joseph is not flashy like the wise men. He’s not outwardly fervent like the shepherds. What stands out about Joseph is his humble faithfulness. Like an offensive lineman just doing his job to protect the quarterback, Joseph faithfully did the work God gave him: He protected and provided for Mary and her baby.
Like Joseph, your station in life may not be very glamorous. Perhaps you’re wading through school obligations. Maybe you’ve set aside a career to look after your family. Maybe you clock in at a windowless 9 to 5 job. You might be tempted to think, Is this all there is to life?
Like Joseph, we can humbly admit when we’re wrong and then change our intended course to match God’s will.
If Joseph ever felt that way, we don’t know about it. What we do know is that he was a faithful husband to Mary and a faithful stepfather to God’s Son, Jesus.
Our children, our coworkers, and our classmates are God’s sons and daughters. By serving them, we serve our Savior. Awaking to that truth every morning gives a joyful sense of purpose to even the most routine day.
Ready to change course
Of course, Joseph’s faithful role almost ended before it began. He assumed, like anyone would, that Mary had been unfaithful. He was preparing a discreet divorce, but then an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to tell him that all was not as it seemed. Mary’s pregnancy wasn’t a result of her sin. She was pregnant because of God’s grace. The child was the fulfillment of a 700-year-old prophecy that the virgin would be with child and give birth to a son. And this was no ordinary child. He was Immanuel—a small Hebrew word for a towering truth: God with us.
This heavenly intervention changed everything. Mary would not be a disgraced single mother, but a cherished wife. The child would not be branded as illegitimate but would be raised in the care of a loving stepfather. And just in case these human parents would ever forget the child’s origins, the angel told Joseph to name the child Jesus, or “Savior.” It wasn’t just a name, but a mission. This child would save his earthly parents and all people from their sins.
Now here’s something else I love about Joseph: He changed course based on God’s word and promises. Imagine him waking up in a cold sweat when he realized that what had seemed so right—divorcing Mary—was in fact so wrong. God wants us, like Joseph, to wake up to this truth: Just because we’ve thought about something for a long time and it feels like the right thing to do, it may not be. God wants us to lay our plans before him in prayer, but he also wants us to match those plans with his will as revealed in his Word. Like Joseph, we can humbly admit when we’re wrong and then change our intended course to match God’s will.
But what about those shameful times when we’ve gone our way rather than God’s way? Here is our assurance: Just as a powerful Shop-Vac inhales clods of dried mud from under the seats of a car, so also has Jesus absorbed every one of our sins when he died on the cross. That doesn’t just leave us clean; it leaves us ready, like Joseph, to serve.
Author: Daniel Habben
Volume 107, Number 12
Issue: December 2020