It came to pass that Joseph was the noblest of men

A few weeks ago, on the first Sunday of Advent, the reading at church was from Matthew 1, which chronicles the genealogy of Christ and Joseph’s decision to stay with Mary after an angel appeared to him in a dream.

The sermon was about Joseph, how it was within his rights to put Mary away, how in fact that was the accepted thing to do at the time, and yet Joseph put aside his own rights and did what God asked of him. Because of Joseph, our pastor said, we should all be excited about Christmas, because he’s the first person in the New Testament to see things through that new lens, that new way of life that Jesus came to bring.

There’s not usually as much time spent on Joseph as there is on Mary. I like to think of him spending time with Jesus, teaching the boy about carpentry and the Scriptures. I like to think about the kind of man he must have been to be able to listen to the angel and put his rights aside. I think about how much he must have loved Mary and how scary her pregnancy and Jesus’ birth must have been. I like to think that the shepherds coming with their story of angels was secretly a relief to him – no matter how much he believed the angel and Mary, he probably had some doubts. What huge grace those shepherds must have been to him. I am glad God provided that for him.

This weekend, we saw Andrew Peterson play in Nashville, and he sang a song that talks a little bit about Joseph. I have been trying to come to terms with my skewed view of God, my cold heart that is too afraid to trust him. As we sat there on Sunday night, I let the words wash over me and I prayed that God would use them to soften up my heart, to knock loose whatever it is that’s stuck in there. It was the first time in a while that I felt able to approach God like that, to ask him for help. I can’t say that I feel any different, to be honest. But I am going to keep praying, and keep remembering a man who, 2000 years ago, put aside his rights to do what God asked him to do. I am going to remember those shepherds and the angels, and how God didn’t leave Joseph hanging, even if it seemed that way many times during those nine months.

It came to pass
That Joseph was the noblest of men
With a woman on a donkey
On the way to Bethlehem

When I think about it, all the things he went through and all the ways that God provided, Joseph does make me excited about Christmas.

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