Father Chuck Files: Understanding Joseph in the Christmas Story

Is there any worse role in a Christmas Pageant than that of Joseph? Mary coos and beams and acknowledges all the visitors, shepherds adore, angels sing, wise men bring gifts, and even the children cast as sheep and cows get to make cool animal noises. But poor Joseph, just stands there. I’ve always felt sorry for the way he gets portrayed in the whole Christmas story.

Joseph is probably the least understood participant in the Christmas drama. Kind of like the comedian Rodney Dangerfield, Joseph might righteously exclaim, “I don’t get no respect!” And this just isn’t right. I want Joseph to get the respect he deserves for without his gifts of hospitality, acceptance, and love, the story of Christmas would have no beginning. Joseph is a model to all of us who are called by God to serve. A model for you and me.

Joseph was one who grappled with the unexpected and upsetting intrusion of the Holy Spirit into what I am sure was a nicely planned life. It’s one thing to be getting married but to have one’s own betrothed suddenly the chosen virgin, to be pregnant with Emmanuel, God with us!

As Christmas draws closer some see Joseph foolishly dragging a very pregnant Mary out on a long, hard trip. Instead we should see a man who welcomed the Holy Spirit into his life and took Mary for his wife without any reservations or revenge. Then the story takes on new meaning.

When arriving at his home town Joseph and Mary stop at his brother-in-law’s home and there in the midst of family, Mary gave birth. The swaddled babe was laid in the manger, safe and secure. And then Joseph’s family cared for them. Can you picture this?

Is there a lesson to be gained from this new insight? Could it be a lesson for us on the fine ministry of hospitality and care for others? Joseph and Mary raised a good boy, who was nurtured and cared for by a loving extended family. Now Joseph might not get a big part in a pageant this year but I think he is an excellent role model for all of us who are called to love and serve our Lord and other’s. That’s us!

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