What was it like to be Joseph?



This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. –Matthew 1:18-25


Joseph has such an under-recognized role in the Christmas story. His faith astounds me. I see it from the beginning, in his first response to Mary. He shows compassion, not wanting to shame her, even when it would have been his right to do so.

Then, the story shifts, as he gets his experience with an angel. But I wonder, why a dream? Why not a wide awake experience with an angel, like was given to Zechariah and Mary? Why was he left to wake up, rub his eyes, and wonder if it was all true or just something he ate?

Was it because he had enough faith to hear the message in this way?

Joseph had so much to accept. Mary might have doubted her visit with the angel, but she would have known with 100% certainty that she had never had sex with a man. As she watched her growing belly and felt the increasing movement from within her womb, she would have had continual confirmation that something beyond her imagination was happening.

Joseph could never have proof that Mary had not cheated on him with another man. His only confirmation were the words of an angel spoken not even face to face, but in a dream. Through faith in those words, Joseph committed to walk with Mary into the unknown. He stayed by her side, and stood in as the father on earth to a child not from his seed. With this story as the backdrop, it is not difficult to imagine how Joseph loved Jesus as his own son.

I can think of few examples of people with Joseph’s mix of strength, compassion, and faith.

I hope I can see Jesus through his eyes this Christmas.


Father in heaven, teach us how to love as Joseph loved. Give us his faith. Share with us his compassion. May we have the courage to follow you into the unknown as he did. Show us something new as we see Christmas through his eyes. Amen.


Joseph’s Lullaby- Mercy Me

“I believe the glory of Heaven Is lying in my arms tonight Lord, I ask that He for just this moment Simply be my child”


Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.

The question no one likes to ask

Will you help me? This seems like something most people loathe asking. Including me.

Sometimes, it’s because I don’t want to admit I need it. I am an independent person. I don’t want to own up to the fact that I can’t do something on my own.

But more often, it’s because I don’t like the way the question makes me feel: vulnerable.

If I take the step of asking people for help, it’s because I think they can assist me in some way. However, there is no guarantee those people will actually say yes. There is a difference between what people can do and what they will do.

Asking for help leaves me exposed, wavering in the wind of unknown as I wonder how the person will respond. Wondering if I will be rejected.

Jesus was often asked for help. But perhaps no one felt as vulnerable when asking as the Jewish man in Mark 1.

This Jewish man had leprosy. He would have spent his life not only in physical pain, but in social isolation. He not only could not be cured, but could not be touched. He carried with him the label “unclean.”

When that unclean and desperate man heard of the healings Jesus had performed, I wonder… did he travel to see Jesus right away? Or did he ponder whether it would be worth it? His requests for help had always come back with the answer “no” from everyone else. Dare he ask Jesus? Even if Jesus could help, would He?

And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. – Mark 1:40-42

When the leper approached, Jesus was “moved with compassion.” That phrase is from the Greek word “splanchnistheis.” It means to be moved as to one's bowels (which were thought to be the seat of love and pity).

And that feeling moved Jesus to do the unthinkable. Jesus touched the unclean man.

In another Bible story, found in John 4:43-54, Jesus healed the son of an official without even being in the same city. Jesus did not have to touch him in order to heal him.

Jesus did not need to touch the man. He wanted to touch the man. Because Jesus knew this man needed more than relief from a physical disease. He needed to be restored. He needed to be loved.

And that is exactly what Jesus did.

Jesus said “I am willing.”

Many people struggle to connect with God because they view Him as a disconnected authoritative figure, supervising the activity of humans from afar.

Jesus blows that idea out of the water. Because Jesus says “I am willing.”

When humans sinned, and there needed to be a way to restore right relationship with God, Jesus said, “I am willing.” When that way meant being born as a tiny, helpless baby, Jesus said, “I am willing.” When that way meant using His time and energy to heal diseases, speak truth, and restore hearts, Jesus said “I am willing.” When that way meant being rejected and misunderstood, Jesus said, “I am willing.” When that way meant dying a painful death, and being forsaken by His Own Father, Jesus said, “I am willing." When that way meant showing His power by rising from the dead, Jesus said, “I am willing.” And when that way meant His Father seating Jesus at His right hand to rule, Jesus said, “I am willing.”

And so now, when we struggle to pray, when we wonder if we can really ask the God of the Universe to help little old us, we can remember that

Jesus says, “I am willing.”

What does Jesus saying, “I am willing” reveal to you?

Read the post before this one, Reveal: A Series for Lent.

*Photo credit: adapted from liberalmind1012 on Flickr Creative Commons