Jesus Christ, the Savior, the Messiah is the central focus of Christmas and the central focus of all eternity, past and future. But the story of His birth, “God becoming flesh,” has a number of important “characters,” one of them being Joseph.
Matthew chapter 1 tells his story: Joseph is engaged to be married to a sweet, beautiful, Godly young woman named Mary. One day she shares with him that an angel has appeared to tell her that she is to be the mother of Jesus, the Messiah. The conception will be a miracle from God. His reaction (the same as yours and mine would be): “Sure!”
But then the miracle inside Mary happens and God the Son is conceived. Now Joseph is in a real dilemma. He knows for sure that they have not consummated their relationship. He doesn’t want to believe that his beloved Mary has been unfaithful, but what other possibility is there? Soon she will be “showing” and everyone will assume they are fornicators. There would be shame, and the families might even disown them; and the law gave the penalty as death.
But he loved Mary so very much and didn’t want to see her reputation ruined, or his. So, he decided to quietly end the engagement and send her away. Then the angel of the Lord appears to him and confirms what Mary had said. She was faithful and pure; she was a virgin. The child was conceived by a miracle of God. Go ahead and marry her the angel said. And when He’s born, don’t call Him Joseph Junior; call Him Jesus, Savior. (Perhaps Joseph even remembered Isaiah 7:14 at that point.)
But the dilemma continues. OK, they’ll be married, but soon she will be showing and people will begin to count the months. “Hmmm, weren’t they just married last month and she’s already looking pregnant. Well, we all know what that means!” People then were just like they are today.
But Joseph believed; he and Mary were the only two people who actually knew they had not brought the baby into the world together. And Mary was the only person in the world to actually know that she was still pure and chaste. But they both believed God and yielded themselves unreservedly to His will and plan.
Of the rest of Joseph’s life, we know little. He married Mary. They went to Bethlehem to record the census and there, Christ was born. Sometime later he took his little family to Egypt to protect them from evil Herod.
When the danger was over, he set up a home for them in Nazareth where he worked as a carpenter and apparently taught Jesus that trade.
When Jesus was 12 years old, the family traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover. The story is told in Luke 2. And from then on, we know almost nothing of Joseph. He’s listed in the genealogy in Luke 3. In Luke 4, Mark 6, Matthew 13 and John 6 Jesus is referred to as the son of Joseph, the carpenter. And that’s it.
Most commentators feel that during Christ’s young adulthood, and after begetting other children, Joseph probably died. That’s only speculation. But in Luke 2:52 we read that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” So, we can conclude that Joseph and Mary “raised Him right.”
Besides learning the carpentry business and becoming Himself a carpenter, Jesus learned whatever other Jewish boys and girls learned in school.
He also learned the Torah and Old Testament scriptures that He, Himself, had written. And, it is apparent that the parents had a positive effect on their Son and other children.
We can only use our “sanctified imaginations” as to what Joseph thought, said and did with the Son God gave him to raise. But Michael Card, one of my favorite singers and songwriters sums up a lot of it in “Joseph’s Song:”
“How could it be, this baby in my arms, sleeping now, so peacefully, the Son of God, the angel said, how could it be?
“Lord, I know He’s not my own, not of my flesh, not of my bone. Still Father let this baby be the son of my love.
“Father, show me where I fit into this plan of yours. How can a man be father to the Son of God? Lord, for all my life I’ve been a simple carpenter; how can I raise a King? How can I raise a King?
“He looks so small, His face and hands so fair. And when He cries the sun just seems to disappear. But when He laughs, it shines again, how could it be?
“Father, show me how I fit into this plan of your…”
And God showed him.