You know, we tend to think that Christianity is about belief. Do we really believe that Jesus was born in a stable and that the heavens opened and proclaimed his birth to a group of shepherds, for example. But Christianity is actually more about how to live, how to journey in the bodies we inhabit through the years we have been given.
And so, in this last week before we celebrate Christmas, I want to give a shout out to St. Joseph—and all faithful men. Mary, the mother of Jesus, gets a lot of press around this time of year but we hardly ever hear about Joseph. But, without him, and how he lived, we would we would have no Mary, no Jesus, no Christmas.
We learn a number of things about him especially in the gospel of Matthew: that, but for his being born into the lineage of King David, Jesus would have had no legitimacy as the messiah. That Joseph was a devout Jew, who observed the law and practices of his faith and yet was open to direct revelation from God. That he trusted enough in that direct revelation that he put aside his plans to break his engagement to Mary, even though the law required it, because he believed that God was doing something unprecedented in her. That he married Mary, adopting a child that was not his. That he took her pregnant to Bethlehem rather than abandon her at the time of childbirth. That he knocked on door after door in Bethlehem, trying to find a safe place for her to rest. That he continued to have the courage to belief in the direct voice of God when he was asked to leave his homeland and flee to Egypt.
Consider what kind of man this is. And consider what kind of man Jesus grew up into, nurtured by his mother, no doubt, but modeling himself after his father. Joseph is unique in the Bible in that his blessedness comes from his role as husband and father—not because he was a patriarch, or prophet, or king. He was a man of faith, a spiritually attuned man, a man able to risk for the sake of his convictions, a man of deep compassion, a man of fidelity to what was right even if it was totally unexpected and or unwanted.
As we approach the dawning of Christmas morning, I wonder how many of us think we have to believe all of the stories in order to receive the gift about to be bestowed. Or, I wonder how many of us feel we are unworthy of such a gift because we are nothing special. We are not patriarchs, prophets, or kings, surely. But maybe we are good, deeply good, like Joseph. Maybe we have the same kind of empathy and compassion for the needs of others that Joseph had, in his own quiet way. Maybe we also have the courage to allow God to interrupt our lives and turn everything upside down. And isn’t that all it takes to be part of the unfolding mystery of our own birthing even as we await the birth of the Christ child?
May it be so,