Joseph has always been right there in the story of Jesus' birth, but only recently have I begun to appreciate his contribution.
The Bible describes Joseph simply, as "a just man" (Matthew 1:19). But reading between the lines shows that Joseph was a wonderful husband and father who fostered the security and well-being of both Mary and Jesus. He was receptive to God's guidance and humbly willing to follow it. He trusted God rather than his own suppositions. He was unselfish and willing to put aside his own plans. Joseph deserves gratitude for his contribution to Christianity.
According to the Bible (see Matthew, chaps. 1, 2), Joseph was espoused to Mary when he discovered she was pregnant. He knew the baby could not be his. Then an angel (a thought from God) told Joseph that the baby was "of the Holy Ghost," and that he didn't need to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. The angel prophesied Jesus would "save his people from their sins." Accepting this message from God, Joseph married Mary. While Jesus was still an infant, Joseph received another angel message from God, directing him to flee to Egypt to protect the baby from King Herod's destructive hate. When told by an angel that it was then safe, Joseph brought them back to Israel, where Jesus grew and, through his teaching and healing, brought the world salvation from sin, disease, and death.
There are lessons you and I can learn from Joseph's life.
Think of how complete and perfect God's work is. God sent his Son to show the way to salvation. Everything about the coming of Jesus Christ was perfect. All the details of time, place, provision, and protection were correct. The prophecies of the Scriptures were all fulfilled. And Joseph, demonstrating simple, complete trust in God, showed that we, too, can trust God to direct us through both the big and little events of our lives.
Joseph provides a lesson in obedience. When God's messages were revealed to him, Joseph acted. And the simplicity of his obedience is remarkable. He obviously put aside concerns about what others would say of him. He put aside ego and no doubt set aside his own human plans. Can we do the same? Is our trust in God great enough? The Bible consistently tells that we can trust Him. The writer of Proverbs advised, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding" (3:5).
Joseph was alert to those angel messages, messages that certainly must have challenged the way he saw the world and his place in it. That's often the nature of God's messages to us, too-they help us look beyond the human circumstances and see Him at work.
Joseph helped pave the way for Jesus' ministry, which consistently showed people the presence of God, of good, where they saw the opposite-the presence of insufficiency, danger, disease, death, and so on. Jesus taught that God is a good Father to us all. Trusting that fact, you and I can look beyond what troubles us, and instead find God's goodness shining forth in its place.
This all helped me when I sustained an injury to my wrist and hand in a fall late one day. Moving them was impossible and the pain was intense. Relying on the Science behind Jesus' healing, Christian Science, I prayed for my own healing, thinking about God's love for me, about His power and presence, and about the completeness and perfection of His care for me. Like Joseph, I had to choose what to trust: what I'd learned about God from my study of His law of good, or the evidence of an accident, pain, and immobility. Both simply couldn't be true; they were in such opposition. I'd been healed in the past by trusting God. So I continued in prayer, and by morning there was no pain and only a trace of immobility. Shortly my wrist and hand were completely normal.
Sometimes, as with Joseph, it seems we've been given only a supporting role. But we can remember his story and trust that whenever we express the qualities he did, any role we play is significant. Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of the Christian Science Church, said, "Each individual must fill his own niche in time and eternity" (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 70). In this light, who could think his or her role was insignificant?