Matthew 1: 18-25
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’
“So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’ Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.”
I was blessed to have two wonderful men in my life to call Dad. My father, Clarence Gooding Sr., was born and died in Barbados, my native country. He was just 48 years old when he went home to be with the Lord. My father loved the Lord; He was a member of the Gideon’s, a deacon in our church back home, and often preached at churches around the island to fill in for Pastors on vacation or who were ill. He could often be found reading the scriptures; and I recall hearing him singing as we drove to school each day. One of his favorite songs is ‘His Eye is On the Sparrow.’
In 1982, when I was 15, my father died from pancreatic cancer; and shortly after my 16th birthday my family, my mom and two younger brothers moved to Canada. But God has a great sense of timing. Not long before my father died, my mom, who lived in Canada for most of the time, was asked to bring a parcel back from Barbados for a man, a friend of a friend.
Andy came by our home in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and met my mom to get the package. She asked him if he went to church. He did, but she invited him to come to our home church, Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church. He visited and soon became a regular. Andy’s wife became ill and she too passed away. In January 1987 he and my mom married, and he became by second dad. He has never been my step-dad, just my dad. I was almost 21 at the time of the wedding, about 6 months shy of graduating seminary.
In recent years I had the privilege of becoming a stepdad and then a father. Today Andy is still a faithful member, one of the deacons, and is graciously caring for my mom who is suffering with Alzheimer’s. Just a few Sundays ago, he mentioned how he asked the Lord daily to give him the grace and the ability to serve my mom, someone who can never return the ‘favor’.
I have been blessed to have had two of the Godliest men I know in this life to be my dads. They were/are not perfect, but they both loved the Lord, served Him faithfully, and set a good example for me and my siblings.
In the story of the birth of Jesus we hear of Mary, we are told of the virgin birth, and we are reminded of the Wise Men, the Magi, who were not actually at Jesus’ birth. Over the years we hear a bit about Joseph, but almost as an aside; he is a minor character in the play. I beg to differ; I think that the Lord God was very careful in whom He allowed to be the human dad of His Glorious Son.
In today’s passage we will explore the man Joseph. And to the dads and fathers out there who care for children that are not your ‘own’ by blood, yet claim them, love them, provide for them and treat them like your own blood, hooray for you. God bless you and make His face to shine on you.
Joseph knew what he was getting into. By accepting this Son, he was setting himself up for ridicule and shame; he was accepting to be an inferior human father to the perfect Son of God – a gargantuan task. How would he teach the Son of God? How would He teach the God who made feet to walk? How would he teach this Son to do anything at all? Yet he stood up and took his place as the human father of the Heavenly Son, and he did his job. It was not a glamorous job, but he took it and did it. Let us look at Joseph today for a few moments and see what the Holy Spirit will teach us men about being fathers and dads.
You need to Love your wife, verse 19
When people read this passage, they do not often think of Joseph’s love for Mary. But actions speak louder than words. Joseph was ‘betrothed’, engaged to Mary. They would have had about a year or so from the time they were engaged to the time of the wedding. In that time, they would not necessarily see each other often. Joseph would be preparing a place for his wife to move into somewhere on his property. But lo and behold, Mary came up pregnant.
Joseph knew for sure that it was not his, and Mary would be pleading that God made her pregnant with His Son. He had a choice to make, and his actions speak of his love for her. He would have had the right to drag her and publicly shame her into the city square and ask for her to be executed. In Leviticus 25:10, we see this:
“If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.”
You may argue that they were not married, but for all intents and purposes, other than the sexual union, they were married according to Jewish law. Thus, any sexual act not with Joseph was adultery. The penalty for adultery was death, usually a gruesome one to satisfy the wronged man. But Joseph was simply going to put her away and end the relationship, quietly and privately. No big mess, no execution and no public shaming. He loved her. He loved her more than himself, more than his pride, and he did not use his hurt feelings as an excuse to strike out and hurt her like he had been hurt.
1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love suffers long AND IS KIND.” Joseph was showing true genuine love by being kind to the one person that could hurt him the most.
God put Jesus in a loving home – a place where sacrificial love was evident, a place that would need lots and lots of forgiveness as the imperfect humans took care of the only perfect human.
You need to be actively listening to God, verses 20-23
Joseph had a relationship with the Lord that was personal and active. He was a thinking man, (notice verse 20); he was thinking about the things that were happening: Mary was pregnant; she said it was from the Lord and not another man. She had been faithful to him and he needed to trust her. He was going over these things in his mind and perhaps asking God for wisdom. The Lord sent an angel to meet with him and give him some instructions.
Just last evening my wife and I were talking about this very thing. Having a relationship with the Lord, I find that as I think about things and read through the Bible, God answers my prayers and questions, or someone else will come with the answer. I will hear or see a verse that perfectly answers the need of the moment.
This is the idea of actively listening to God. We often ask God for answers and then go on without looking for God to answer. We treat God like He is an inanimate idol incapable of truly hearing or answering. But if we ask a question, if we have a need, if we have a need for the Lord’s direction, the Lord’s plan and His will then we have to ask, and then LISTEN for the answer. God will answer. He answered Joseph.
The Lord confirmed Mary’s story and charged Joseph to complete the wedding and take Jesus as his son. In fact, it was Joseph who named Jesus. This is what the father did. Joseph was a man who knew the scripture the angel would recall to him in the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. He was a man (though maybe unlearned in the traditional sense of us today), who had learned the Old Testament and maybe had never seen himself as a part of the history contained therein; but he was an integral part.
This is the kind of home that God put His Son in – a home where the father/dad was actively listening to the Lord and in a true relationship with the Lord God – one that knew the scriptures and one that had a personal relationship with the Lord.
You need to be obedient to God, verse 24-25
Joseph immediately obeyed God and married Mary. There is no point to having an open relationship with the Lord, and no point in asking God for answers if you have no intention of obeying once you know the will of God. Joseph was a man of obedience. Obedience to God often brings some kind of burden with it. In this case he would have to bear the shame of and with his pregnant wife. But it is important for us to see that, in his heart, Joseph knew God’s will and plan; thus, he was not dissuaded by man’s opinion or jesting.
We know people; and if we were to be honest, if we were Joseph’s friend and we saw him marrying a woman that clearly was pregnant, and that he did not physically have sexual relations with her so as to make her pregnant – and, on top of that, she was claiming that the baby was God’s – I am not sure how I would counsel Joseph. On top of that, to have the audacity to think that God would use a lowly carpenter like you to fulfill a 700+ year old prophecy is just prideful, my brother. Mary has you hoodwinked; you have sipped too much of the ‘Kool-Aid.’ Get out while you can, my brother, and let her raise God’s son on her own.
But Joseph, in obedience to God against all odds, took Mary as his wife, and in so doing took Jesus as his son. He willingly bore whatever shame and costs came along with this obedience. He cherished obedience to God over man’s favor.
This is the kind of home that God put His Son in: one filled with love, one filled with a real active and powerful relationship with the Lord God, and one filled with sacrificial obedience to God. Joseph was a true man, a leader in his home, and a follower of God. He was an earthly example to the Heavenly Son.
It is okay if the world overlooks you as a dad; but make no mistake, God sees. He saw Joseph. He saw my father, and He sees my dad. He sees you dad; keep loving your wife, keep listening and obeying God. Merry Christmas.
Luke 2:1-7 “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
“So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”