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.
It was the nativity that opened my eyes to this truth. Literally. See, if you look closely, you’ll see 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 or two. So, I pondered it. I wondered what does it really mean?
Thanks to Wikipedia, 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 longed. Because in Hebrew, nativity 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 today.
See, I was outraged by a national figure’s description of Christmas in a magazine not so long ago. 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. Here in my home-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. The land of his fathers.
And so, Mary and Joseph were among the very first holiday travelers, journeying home 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
By immersing myself in the Christmas story, I find myself wanting to know everything. All of it. And though I’ve simmered in Mary, I’ve not really stewed on Joseph. Jesus’ earthly father. So that’s what I do this day…
Scripture tells me Joseph was of the line of David so Bethlehem was his home-place. The land of his ancestors. The book of Matthew invites me to take a closer look into his lineage and through his rich heritage, I gain a glimpse of what kind of man Joseph really was. For he came from good stock.
Yes,the pages of Scripture give testimony of Joseph’s 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 and honor. He redeemed the woman Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. And of course, there’s King David, the once shepherd boy.
And 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, indeed. He was hand selected by Father God to rear God’s own Son. A good man was Joseph, but surely he wasn’t perfect. Surely, his faith was shaken once or twice.
For he was betrothed to Mary, a virgin. Oh, what he must have thought when she told him her news. That she was with child. He was a man so he must have felt the sting of pain. And a moment of rage. Did sorrow turn to utter disbelief? And shock? For he loved his betrothed… did he fear Mary had betrayed him?
Joseph must have endured those moments because he was only human. I’m sure I would have. I would have gone through every stage. The quick fury settling into the slow burn of anger. Sadness to confusion. And then, fear would have set in. Oh, I would have thought the worst of my beloved. For a time, at least. And from Scripture, I believe Joseph felt it all, too. At least for a time…
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
Perhaps the above passage provides the most information about Joseph’s character. He was righteous. He was caring. Despite his hurt, he wouldn’t think of publicly disgracing Mary. No, he’d handle matters privately. Quietly.
But then, lo, an angel appeared with good news. Words of encouragement. Just when he 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 acted in faith.
Joseph decided to walk forward with Mary despite how dire the circumstances appeared. He extended mercy instead of outrage. And he swallowed down his pride as he took Mary on as his bride.
Surely the road ahead was a rough one. For people talk, right? Rumors abound. And Joseph was likely to endure whispers, nudges, and laughter at his expense. However, right here 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 humble man.
Humility before pride…
His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. He has done a mighty deed with His arm; He has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; He has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, mindful of His mercy, just as He spoke to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever. Song of Mary, Luke 1:50-55
The father of Jesus came from good stock. His home-place was a little town called Bethlehem and it was small among the clans of Judah. And Joseph, a carpenter, probably seemed small to people of a certain stature.
But God looks beyond the exterior. He sees the heart. And within Joseph, God found what He was looking for in Jesus’ earthly father. God looked deep and found righteousness and courage. He found compassion and mercy. And perhaps most importantly, He found humility.
And this was Jesus’ father. The one depicted in nativity sets everywhere. His name was 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