Before I start, if you have not read the post Christmas Thoughts: The Silence Has Broken and then come back to this one. I am going to make a few references to what I wrote there.
I remember the first time that I heard the term “stepdad” in reference to Joseph. It was in a Christmas song called What We Call Christmas by the band Bleach. I was kind of offended. Why refer to Joseph this way. Eventually, I realized that it was an apt term. Joseph really was Jesus’ step-father. Jesus was/is God’s son…Joseph was, for lack of a better word, his custodial guardian.
There are two things about this that stand out to me. The first is that We can never be ready, truly ready, for how God is going to work things out. Jesus was/is the promised Messiah. No one expected him to be born into the family of a common construction worker and his wife, who got pregnant before she was married.
On top of that, imagine how Joseph was feeling. He is about to be married, following all of the Jewish laws of purity, and his fiance comes to him with, “I’m pregnant, but it’s not what you think…it is God’s son.”
I can just imagine what Joseph was thinking…not only was this girl cheating on him, she might be a bit crazy. Until recently, I have always forgotten the humanity of the people in this story. I guess I have always “holy-fied” them. I didn’t think about the human-ness of Joseph in how he must have felt when Mary gave him the news. But why would he believe what she said. I mean, come on, it is a little far-fetched. Remember, there had been a 400 year silence between God and the Jews, and on top of that, why would the Messiah come through an unwed mother? That is kind of far outside if Jewish law.
No wonder God had to send supernatural intervention to stop old Joe from ending the betroval quietly. Talk about a rude awakening. Joseph probably had trouble getting to sleep that night, and in the middle of his restless sleep, Gabriel, one of the head angels, pays him a visit. “Joseph, this is for real. You are going to name the boy Jesus, and you are going to raise him. You are going to raise the Messiah as your son.”
I don’t know about you, but I think I would have had to change my jammies…and not because of the heavenly visitor. He was just told that he is going to be the adoptive father to the Son of God and Savior of Israel. Gulp. Talk about a big pill to swallow.
What do you say to that? How do you deal with that? How do you prepare for that? How do you get ready to teach, discipline, and parent God’s son? Additionally, how do you explain this to your family and friends? I bet he could already hear them all, ” Suuuuuure, it’s not your baby. I am sure it is the ‘Son of God.’. Sure, Joe, we believe you.”
The story of Jesus’ coming as a baby is real, and it is a real story. The people are real. Joseph really was asked to raise a child that was not his. He was given the job of raising the Messiah. He really was to marry a pregnant Mary, no matter what anyone said. It is much easier to believe a real story, and this one is real and as full of the aspects of reality that we all know.
This brings me to the second thing that Joseph-the-Stepdad makes me realize. Jesus understands us. As Christians, we are adopted children of God. Jesus knows what this is like. He was the son of God adopted by a man…as we are the son of men adopted by God. He knows the learning curve. He understands. He is like us and we are like him.
And lastly, this brings me to one last point. Adoption is near and dear to God’s heart. Jesus was adopted, we are adopted, and he wants us to care for orphans. I will post more about this another day, but please think about doing something for children who don’t have parents to love and care for them. Adoption, fostering, or just reaching out to children in need is something God has called us to. Remembering Jesus’ adoption by Joseph should remind us about this.
I will end on that note. I think we have a lot to chew on.
Merry Christmas, everyone!