President Obama and his family are in Hawaii for the holidays. No white Christmas for them! Last year, Susan and I celebrated Christmas and New Years in the Philippines, so we're familiar with a tropical Christmas.
However, when we travel and the president travels, it's very different. We pass through various security checks. He and his family have a security team to protect them.
Why all the security? We live in a time when trust is scarce.
Not so special?
Can you imagine what it would be like if a newborn was in the First Family? Look at the attention given to the British Royal family and the Queen's grandchild! I imagine it would be pretty similar, if not more intense.
And yet, a remarkable facet of the Christmas story is how the birth of Jesus took place.
No special attention was given until two years after His birth. Okay, there was an awesome angelic announcement (Luke 2:8:14), but who heard it? A bunch of nomadic, not-so-clean nor trustworthy shepherds were the audience. They were the equivalent of the old range cowboys of America—not exactly who you'd want your daughter to marry.
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Not an ordinary man
One of the fascinating parts of the story to me is the father of the Savior of the world. Actually, Joseph was the stepfather, if you will. This is made clear by his initial plan when he heard his bride-to-be was pregnant. He knew it wasn't his child. But here's where the story takes an unexpected turn.
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was engaged to marry Joseph, but before they married, she learned she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man, he did not want to disgrace her in public, so he planned to divorce her secretly. Matt 1:18-19 NCV
Joseph was not an ordinary man. He may appear ordinary, as a carpenter from a small town in northern Palestine (Israel). What makes Joseph extraordinary is the trust God places in him. Joseph was a trustworthy man.
What we can see in Joseph
The first thing I notice is Joseph's character. He was "a good man." Other Bible versions use the words just, righteous, upright, and honorable to describe Joseph.
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I also see a compassionate and humble man. When he finds out Mary, the woman he is legally promised to marry, is pregnant, he doesn't want to publicly disgrace her. Though he would be humiliated, he wasn't vindictive. He still loved his wife-to-be.
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Joseph was spiritually perceptive. His plan to quietly divorce Mary is interrupted by a dream. In the dream, an angel of the Lord informs Joseph what's taking place.
While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.” Matt 1:20-23 NCV
This message is remarkable—
- Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit, not another man
- Joseph is to go forward with the marriage
- The child will be a son, to be named Jesus, because He will be a Savior
- This was planned by God long ago—He will be "God with us"
A final insight to Joseph's trustworthiness is his response to all of this. Joseph responded in faith to the message of the angel from God.
When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord’s angel had told him to do. Joseph took Mary as his wife, but he did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to the son. And Joseph named him Jesus. Matt 1:24-25 NCV
- Joseph takes Mary as his wife
- He accepts and bears the scandalous appearance of illegitimacy
- He abstains from sexual relations with Mary until after the child's birth
- He names the child Jesus
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More to the story
There is more to the story, of course, but you can read it yourself. Joseph's qualities as a man—good character, compassion and humility, spiritual perception, and faithfulness—add up to a trustworthy man.
These are qualities to be admired in any man. God is still looking for men like Joseph. Men who are trustworthy to bring the message of God's redemption to a dark, insecure and untrusting world.
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This Christmas, think about the man to whom God entrusted His Son—the Savior of the world. The Savior—crucified and risen, and seated in power in heaven—will transform any man who puts their trust in Him above all.
Are you willing to become a person like Joseph?