Let Joseph Inspire Your Faith this Christmas

My romantic view of a stable vanished when I visited a camel and watched him project bodily filth in the direction of onlookers. My childhood notion that the first Christmas was all joy for the main characters evaporated too. Mary and Joseph experienced a bevy of challenges including fear, betrayal, and misunderstanding. In other words, the first Christmas included real people with real problems—people like us. That makes Joseph’s faith all the more inspiring.

Joseph Was Kind

Our culture suffers from a dearth of kindness. Hateful comments on social media show believers tearing down fellow believers. Joseph demonstrated kindness during major disappointment.

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly” (Matt. 1:18-19 NLT).

Mary, Joseph’s fiancé, returned from an out-of-town visit three months pregnant. Her story about an angel’s visit and being a pregnant virgin must have sent him reeling. How could he have been so wrong about Mary? Why would she cover her betrayal with such a ridiculous story?

The stigma of illegitimacy followed Jesus throughout his life (John 8:41). In our morally lax society, we can’t fully appreciate the shame this carried. Books written less than a century ago show a compromising letter could ostracize a woman and prevent a respectable marriage.

In The Indescribable Gift, Richard Exley explains that in a Jewish marriage a betrothal was as binding as marriage. First came the engagement, a contract arranged by family members. Next came the betrothal, “a public ratification of the engagement. …during this period the couple is considered husband and wife, though the marriage has not been consummated. The only way a betrothal could be terminated was by death or divorce…” [1] This was before the marriage proper and the wedding party.

Under Moses’ law, anyone guilty of adultery would be stoned (Lev. 20:10). Joseph doubted Mary’s explanation, yet he showed kindness in the midst of whirling emotions. He chose a quiet divorce to protect Mary from public shame.

Kindness allows the wrongdoer to return to God and His people. In Joseph’s case, when Mary’s reputation was cleared, he had to deal only with having doubted her story. He had no regrets about how he’d handled the matter.

Joseph Was Courageous

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’” (Matt. 1:20 NIV).

Why was Joseph afraid? He feared Mary had been with another man and was not the noble person he’d believed she was. The angel quieted his fear. Mary had told the truth. She was carrying the Son of God.

Other fears probably taunted Joseph. To take Mary, who was three months pregnant, as his wife made him look immoral. How would this affect his standing in the Jewish community or his carpentry business? Would their synagogue, families, and friends shun them?

Once Joseph knew this was God’s plan for him, his concerns melted. He put aside his fears and followed God. When we know and trust God, we too find the courage to face our fears and follow Him.

Joseph Trusted God’s Guidance

God warned and directed Joseph step by step. The Bible says God shares insights with those who walk with Him (John 16:13), and He directs our path (Pro. 16:9).

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21 NIV italics added).

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him’” (Matt. 2:13 NIV).

God’s ways are not my ways—they are better (Is. 55:9). And so is His timing. God sent the directions Joseph needed when he needed them—not before. He’ll do the same for you and me.

God sent the directions Joseph needed when he needed them—not before. He’ll do the same for you and me. #TrustHim #Faith Share on X

Joseph Obeyed God that First Christmas

 Joseph demonstrated the obedience of faith. When an angel spoke to him in a dream he immediately obeyed.

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (Matt. 1:24).

“So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt” (Matt. 2:24 NIV).

He fled, perhaps on foot, and left behind what they couldn’t carry. He lost customers and started over (Luke 2:13). Joseph’s obedience showed he trusted God’s wisdom and provision for the unknown.

Joseph Lived Within His Means the First Christmas

At Christmas, we—especially parents and grandparents—feel the pressure to spend more than we should. The Christmas story shows the humility of Joseph.

But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering” (Leviticus 12:8 NIV).

“They also offered a sacrifice as required by the Lord’s Teachings: ‘a pair of mourning doves or two young pigeons’” (Luke 2:24 GW).

At Jesus’s circumcision Mary and Joseph couldn’t afford to offer a lamb. Charles Ryrie says the lesser offering of a pair of doves or pigeons shows the family’s poverty.[2]

Are you tempted to feel sorry for yourself, react to insensitive friends and relatives, or overindulge at Christmas? Remember Joseph and follow his example of faith.

Click here to comment. Learn more about Mary and Joseph in Little Women, Big God, on sale now.

Blessings,

Resources

 

Are you feeling stressed by the holidays or by life? Tina Yeager put together a course that tackles stress from a variety of angles. Each presenter shares from our area of expertise on how to handle stress. Click here to learn more.

 

 

[1] . Richard Exley, The Indescribable Gift  (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 1997, 2002), 34

[2] Charles C. Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1976, 1978), 1547

A version of this first appeared at: https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/things-we-learn-from-josephs-faith-at-christmas.html

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Sarah Schwerin

    What an interesting take on Joseph’s story. Thanks for sharing.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Sarah!

  2. Nancy E. Head

    I love this unfolding of the biblical account. Very nice!

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Nancy. I enjoyed thinking about it from Joseph’s perspective.

  3. J.D. Wininger

    I had to start with laughter as I read your post Ms. Debbie; remining myself why I never stand directly behind a cow. After the laughter though, my mood grew somber as I read of Joseph’s faith. Would I be that faithful? Could my character be that strong? Would I be enough to lead God’s Son to grow into manhood? Oh, how you led me to prayers for improving my faith this morning. Thank you for this unique perspective many fail to take as we study God’s word.

    • Debbie Wilson

      J.D., I’m sure you could add a lot of first-hand experience to that! It was quite shocking to this city girl. Yes, Joseph certainly challenges me to trust God more. Thanks so much for reading.

  4. Lisa notes

    These are such great things we can learn from Joseph. I was recently around a camel in October; he paid me no attention but maybe that was a good thing. 🙂

    • Debbie Wilson

      LOL! I got to ride one in Israel. And he didn’t misbehave either. 🙂

  5. Ann J Musico

    Just beautiful Debbie. So amazing to really consider what they truly dealt with in those times. It is very humbling.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Ann, the Christmas story really challenges our customary view of how our celebration should look!

  6. Sylvia A Schroeder

    I do try to consider the Christmas story in the light of real people…but your intro brought a whole new dimension in thinking real people AND real animals! Thanks Debbie, I love the character of Joseph in the story. In the relatively little we know of him, there is such steadfastness and godliness. I appreciate you spotlighting him in this post.

    • Debbie Wilson

      I like that, real people and real animals! Thanks, Sylvia.

  7. Jeanne Takenaka

    Debbie, I love how you share Joseph’s character here. I always enjoy seeing the Christmas story through the eyes of the various people who lived it. Joseph must have been such a man of integrity. And, he must have had an enduring faith in God to make the choices he did.

    • Debbie Wilson

      I agree, Jeanne. He was quite a man of faith. Can’t wait to meet these people one day!

  8. Barbara Latta

    We are given two Joseph’s in the Bible who were godly men. It’s obvious God chose Joseph as much as He chose Mary. Jesus needed a strong earthly father figure and Mary needed the protection of a husband. They both willing submitted to God’s plan knowing the shame that would come to them.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Barbara, I like how you brought out that God pick Joseph as much as He chose Mary. So beautiful to see His hand.

  9. Katherine Pasour

    Joseph is such a wonderful role model for us, obedient, faithful, trustworthy, and humble. He’s mostly an unsung hero. Thank you for featuring Joseph in your message, we can learn much from him. Wishing you and your family a blessed and joyous Christmas, Debbie.

    • Debbie Wilson

      Thank you, Katherine. Merry Christmas to you and your family too!

  10. Tim Butler

    Debbie,
    Your description of Jewish matrimony is something all Christians need to take heed of.

    Within our culture, more and more a worldwide one, marriage is seen as conferred on a couple by the government, and therefore defined by either them, or as in America, by majority consent.

    Yet as with our elder brother and sisters understanding the essence of a marital union is determined by God who gave us our nature as human, male and female. God’s intent for matrimony is the standard and cannot be changed.

    Jesus said “because of the hardness of your hearts, Moses gave you a letter of divorce, but what God has put together let no man pull apart.”

    From this we see two ideas of marriage; the first being a natural one; the second supernatural and therefore indissoluble (until death do us part).

    Thus our Christian understanding precludes anyone but God from changing the definition of matrimony, of which I might add, goes against the current cultural grain that sees homosexual marriage just as viable as that of between one man and one woman.

    This is true because two persons are not united when a priest, preacher, pastor, judge or ship’s captain say “I now pronounce you man and wife.” They are united by their mutual consent assuming it aligns with God’s will for matrimony. Therefore in the Christian understanding there are no shotgun weddings.

    Furthermore, God’s will requires two consenting adults of the opposite sex because God’s purpose has to do with both unity and procreation. Inotherwords a man and woman’s authentic love blossoms in new and unique life, little persons who will then grow up to choose to be with God someday. God’s intent for holy matrimony, which he raised from it’s natural state to a sacramental one, that being defined as a sign that provides the grace it signifies, has always been the purpose for the creatures he favors so highly. So highly that he suffered and died for them missing the mark.

    Our secular hedonistic culture has taken these ingredients out of God’s will for matrimony leaving it based on just sexual pleasure. It has infected our Christian understanding to a point where we cannot see contraception, abortion, homosexuality, prostitution, pornography, masturbation, cloning, invitro fertilization, genetic so-called engineering, embryonic stem cell research,.. all of which in one way or another interfere with God’s purpose for marriage… to populate heaven with the persons he loves.
    TCB

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