Who’s That Guy?

I love Handel’s Messiah. Okay, dork that I am, I just love Handel. But this time of year especially, his Messiah can oftentimes be heard playing loudly on our hi-fi; even more frequently rolling around in the private spaces of my brain.

Christmastime is very near and dear to my sweet little family and I. Our kids know it as Jesus’ birthday, and they celebrate it with as much voracity as they do their own. Not for the sake of presents, or goodies, or fun (which, of course, are all lovely parts of any birthday celebration), but because they genuinely love their King Jesus. They have the kind of faith that puts mine to shame: strong in backbone, tender in heart.

Christmastime, for my family, and for so many Jesus-followers around the world, is a time to focus on the miracle of the Incarnation. God becoming man. Doing the unthinkable to save his stubborn, willful creation.

And that is as it should be.

But when I look at the nativity scenes people put in front of their houses, or on their mantels, there’s one figure who’s always there, but is often overlooked.

Joseph. Jesus’ adoptive dad.

Joseph was the living definition of a strong backbone and tender heart.

Really, he was a nobody. A laborer. A blue-collar worker with no decent family lineage to speak of (something that counted for a whole lot back in the first century), save for a very distant relative. The distance between him and King David was so great that it didn’t even count in minds of his counterparts.

Joseph was engaged to be married to this girl named Mary. Mary was a catch. She was pretty. She was good (understatment? Probably). They loved each other.

But then one day Mary came to Joseph. We need to talk, she said. He listened as she told him the news:

She was pregnant.

What a punch to the gut. Because Joseph knew that this was not his child. Humiliation. Shame. Embarrassment.

There were a lot of things Joseph could have done. He could have dragged her by the hair to the public square and told everybody in town that his fiancé was pregnant with another man’s child. Could have had her whipped. Stoned to death. All these were acceptable options for a man wronged in this way in the first century.

But Joseph wasn’t that kind of man. His heart was tender.

Instead, he chose to deal with it quietly. His first thought was to avoid bringing shame to the woman he loved – even though he believed she’d betrayed him in the worst possible way.

But then an angel of God came to him and told him who this child really was. What that child’s destiny was. He instructed Joseph to marry the woman he loved, keep her and protect her and her child, and to name the baby she would bear Jesus.

So Joseph did. Even though it would look like he’d gotten her pregnant before they were married. Even though it meant he would carry a burden of shame that had no grounds in truth for the rest of his life. Joseph followed God’s direction, without question.

His backbone was tempered steel.

When I look at Joseph, I see so much of what I’m not. So much of what I wish I could be. Someone who loves, even when it costs something. Someone who has fears, but doesn’t give those feelings enough credit to hinder doing the right thing. Someone who’s willing to believe that what I see in this moment – all the things that don’t make sense, all the loose ties that could never be wrapped neatly around any sort of package – that all that stuff doesn’t matter.

Because, when it comes down to it, two simple things are the bedrock of life, so well put by Joseph’s first-born son:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

I think Joseph understood this very well.  In fact, if it weren’t for the strength of his conviction, and his willingness to love – even through pain – the Christmas I celebrate would be very, very different.

Merry Christmas, dear readers.


27 thoughts on “Who’s That Guy?

  1. Tameri Etherton says:

    Lovely, lovely post, Myndi. I’ve always liked Joseph for these exact reasons. His quiet strength gave Jesus the foundation of love, humility, and gratitude that he would later show the world. Joseph would be so thrilled (but probably never tell anyone) that you’ve spotlighted him today. He’s a keeper and Mary was so lucky to have had him. ; )

  2. EllieAnn says:

    what a great post. tender heart. steel backbone. reminds me of Jesus himself. what a good person to be. I love this! Thanks for the well-written reminder.

  3. Marcy Kennedy says:

    Beautiful post. In all the Christmas sermons that I’ve heard, I don’t think I’ve ever heard one on Joseph, and yet he’s a wonderful example for all of us. I think Joseph and your children’s faith puts most of us to shame. This post will be in my mind as I celebrate the birth of our Lord this year 🙂

  4. Lisa Hall-Wilson says:

    Very beautiful post, Myndi. I think Joseph was an introvert, like me 🙂 I love that he put everyone else before him – perhaps that’s why his faith is often overlooked in the retelling of this story every year. Thanks for the reminder of the values this season should be emphasizing – instead of only gift-giving and receiving.

  5. Julie Hedlund says:

    I love this post! Regardless of religious beliefs, you have to look at a man like Joseph and see all that is admirable and good about people in him. I hadn’t ever thought about him much at all, and I’m glad this post changed that!

  6. Ginger Calem says:

    Myndi, your post touched my heart and gave me chills. Every year I try to simplify the madness that comes with Christmas in a big family, tons of cousins and the like. In the back of my mind is always the grateful heart and knowing that we are celebrating a miracle.

  7. Lena Corazon says:

    Growing up in Catholic school, my teachers and pastor used to emphasize Joseph’s humility, and the fact that he trust Mary enough not to abandon her when he learned that she was pregnant with a child that wasn’t his. Had he done so, she could have been stoned to death, under laws that governed adultery.

    There are actually 2 feast days in his honor in the Catholic church, where he is remembered for his steadfast love and faith in God (it takes a lot of guts to trust dreams where an angel is telling you to (1) marry a woman already pregnant and (2) flee to Egypt and live there for years, on the possibility that your son might be killed in a scourge).

    Wonderful post, Myndi!

  8. Louise Behiel says:

    beautiful post, Myndi. It certainly reminded me of the real meaning of Christmas and the faith behind the celebration. I always put up the nativity scene last – after everything else is done in my house. then I take a few moments and remember why I’ve gone to all this work and effort. You gave me that gift a few days early this year.

  9. Kara says:

    This a a truly beautiful post! I have often felt the same way about Joseph and I’ve been a little sad that we don’t know more about him. But I guess in a way, we know all we need to know. He was one amazing guy.
    Merry Christmas Myndi!

  10. Karen McFarland says:

    That was a very insightful post Myndi. Had Joseph not obeyed God’s angel to flee, Jesus would have most certainly been killed by Herod. Those three wise men that were sent out to find Jesus were no wise men at all, but magi, magicians who were seeking to kill God’s only begotten son. And because of Joseph’s obedience, God blessed him with other sons and daughters and they became footstep followers of their half brother the Christ.

    As you can tell I love this subject. Thanks Myndi. 🙂

  11. Patricia says:

    It’s nice to reflect on the deeper, truer meaning than all the commercialism surrounding this joyful event. Joseph indeed was a man every man could take lessons from.

    Thanks everyone else for shaing your lovely comments and additional thoughts.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  12. lynnkelleyauthor says:

    I’m so glad Marcy added this link to her post. I don’t know how I missed this, but I’ve been way behind on everything, and maybe I wasn’t supposed to read it until Christmas Eve because this is one of the best Christmas posts I’ve read and made me tear up. Wonderful post. Thanks, Myndi. Merry Christmas to you, all your little darlings, and your hubby!

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