And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. Luke 2:4-5
I’m currently on a journey to my spiritual Bethlehem. And my prayer is that I’ll stay off the well-worn path of consumerism and busyness, in hope of finding something deeper along the path less traveled. And to my surprise, I find I won’t have to wander far. For I’ve discovered my spiritual Bethlehem, or House of Bread, is where I least expected to find it. For it’s right here. My Bethlehem is the same small town in which I was born and raised. And it was the nativity that opened my eyes to this truth. Literally. See, if you look closely, you’ll see that one of mine actually spells it out… N – A - T – I – V – I - T – Y. And recently, the word captured my gaze for more than a mere second. And so, I pondered it… I wondered what does it mean? Wikipedia enlightened me, for I learned that nativity is derived from a Latin word meaning birth. So quite rightly, the nativity depicts just this… the birth of Jesus Christ.
I wanted to go deeper, though, and through a Bible concordance I unearthed that something deeper for which I was searching. I find that nativity, in Hebrew, encompasses not only the birth, but also family, relatives, children; land of birth, native land, kindred. And honestly, this put me in my rightful place. For not so long ago, I was outraged by a national figure’s description of Christmas in a magazine. She said, “To me, it’s about time with family…” And me being me, I was filled with ire that the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior, was omitted from the article. And me being me on a journey to a more spirit filled Christmas, this woman’s quote set me off. But today, I am set in my place. For the truth is - although Jesus is the reason for the season – perhaps some small part of Christmas is in fact about family. Because Scripture tells the story. And before Christmas was even Christmas, Joseph took Mary to his native land… to his nativity. And so, Mary and Joseph became the very first holiday travelers, journeying home for that first Noel.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Agustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. Luke 2:1-2
Part of immersing myself in the Christmas story, I find myself wanting to know everything. Oh, I’ve simmered in Mary, but what about Jesus’ father? Scripture tells me Joseph was of the line of David, so it’s clear that Bethlehem was his hometown. However, the first book of Matthew invites me to take a closer look into Joseph’s lineage. It’s through his rich heritage that I can perhaps gain a glimpse of what kind of man Joseph really was. Because the pages of Scripture give testimony of his forefathers’ proven character. First, there was Father Abraham, a man made righteous by his faith in God. And there was Jacob, who fathered the twelve tribes of Israel. And further down the line, I find Boaz… a man of strength who redeemed the woman Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. And of course, there is King David, the once shepherd boy. And on down the line we go until…
… and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah. So all the generations from Abraham to David were 14 generations; and from David until the exile to Babylon, 14 generations; and from the exile to Babylon until the Messiah, 14 generations. Matthew 1:16
Joseph came from good stock. He was hand selected by God the Father to rear His own Son. A good man was Joseph, but surely he had a crisis of faith moment. For he was betrothed to Mary, the virgin. What must he have thought when she became pregnant? He was but a man so he must have felt the sting of pain. There must have been a moment of rage that turned to sorrow and then, utter disbelief. For he had to have loved Mary… did he fear she had betrayed him? He must have had all those moments, for he was only human. I know I would have. I would have gone through every stage… the quick fury to the slow burn of anger. The sadness to confusion. And then, fear would have set in. Oh, I would have thought the worst of my betrothed. For a time, at least. And from Scripture, I believe Joseph must have felt it all, too.
So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:19-21
The above passage provides the most information about Joseph’s character. He was a righteous and caring man. Despite his hurt, he wouldn’t think of disgracing Mary publicly. No, he would handle matters privately. But then, an angel appeared with a word of encouragement. Just when he must have needed it the most, Joseph received a personal word from God. And because he was nourished through that morsel of spiritual food, Joseph took courage and did what he knew he had to do. He decided to marry the pregnant virgin, despite how dire circumstances appeared. The man Joseph knew he would have to swallow his pride to take on Mary as his bride. And the road ahead was likely to be a rough one, for people talk, right? Rumors abound, and Joseph was likely to endure whispers, nudges and laughter at his expense. However, it’s right here that I find Joseph’s greatest trait. And perhaps it’s the very reason God selected Joseph to be the father of Jesus. For Joseph was a man of humility.
The father of Jesus came from a little town called Bethlehem, small among the clans of Judah. And Joseph, a carpenter, probably seemed small to certain people of a certain stature. But God looks beyond the exterior to the heart. And within Joseph, God found what He was looking for in Jesus’ earthly father. God looked deep inside and found righteousness, compassion, courage and perhaps most importantly… humility. This was the man, Joseph.
When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus. Matthew 1:24-25