It’s that time of year again, that time when people point to Christmas and the birth of Jesus.
Did you ever think back in the day that it would be such a big deal? Did you ever think that so many people would make it such a big deal in the wrong way?
You are often pushed to the background of the story. And, indeed, the story is not about you. But without you, there would be no story. For me, you have been an intriguing character in this whole Christmas thing.
I sometimes wonder what you thought when Mary told you about her pregnancy. It was quite a shock, and I am sure that her retelling of meeting the angel was a stretch to believe.
You were ready to quietly renounce your betrothal and let her move on in peace. Then an angel appeared to you and calmed your fears. You took Mary as your wife. The rest is the history of a new religion that changed the world.
Yes, you were willing to heed the request of the angel – more than once! You showed great faith and have provided an inspiration to those of us who wonder what we would have done in similar situations. I fear that many of us, myself included, would not have been as brave or as obedient.
I can’t imagine the kind of pressure you must have felt. You were just a working man trying to start a family, and all this happened. New wife, child, manger scene, shepherds, wise men. And then you got word from the angel that you needed to leave for Egypt.
Perhaps the amazing thing is not that you heard from the angel – but that you listened and obeyed. That is something that many of us today would have a hard time doing. I can imagine being in your position today.
ANGEL: Go to Egypt. And go now.
ME: My passport isn’t up to date, the car is in need of work, I have a big carpentry job that I promised for my neighbor. How about in a few weeks? Maybe we can plan on moving in the spring?
But you, Joe, you woke up and obeyed – without question, without hesitation, without trying to negotiate alternatives.
The Bible doesn’t say what you did in Egypt, but I imagine that you found work. After all you were a skillful carpenter, and everyone has need of a good craftsman from time to time. You provided for your family and waited for another message. Once again you heard the angel call to you, and once again you obeyed.
I would have done things differently, I am afraid.
ANGEL: Take your wife and son and go back home.
ME: What? I came down here to Egypt to keep him safe, and you want me to go back there? There are still people who might want to kill him. I have a great job, the people like us, Mary has made friends, and the weather is good. How about if we go next year?
Joe, you just picked up the family and went all the way back to Nazareth. What faith!
The Bible doesn’t say much else about you beyond the situation at the temple where Jesus stayed behind without telling either his earthly mother or father. The rest is left to our imaginations.
We don’t know for sure what kind of father you were or what impact you had on Jesus. But if those visits from the angel are any indication, you were a great dad. I have a feeling that you often told Jesus about the unusual events surrounding his birth. And I feel sure that you told him about obedience to God, even when His requests sometimes seem so outlandish.
It’s no wonder that Jesus obeyed what was asked of him all the way to the cross. He was following an example that had been set by you. Yes, he was the son of God, but he needed an earthly dad to connect to the human part of him. That was your role and Mary’s.
So Joe, I just wanted to let you know that you are being thought of in this special time of the year. We’ll focus on the little baby and his mother looking on so lovingly. But we won’t forget the man in the background calmly surveying the wonders around him. We can all learn from your example of patience, understanding, listening and following.
Thanks Joe, and Merry Christmas.
Jeff Wallace is the retired editor of the Aiken Standard.