And [Joseph] called His name Jesus. (Matt 1:24b)
It is easy to overlook Joseph’s part in the Christmas story. But it is worth considering what is written about him, because we see a wonderful man from whom we can learn much. As we look through the four gospel accounts, Luke’s record focusses on Mary, while Matthew is the account that focusses on Joseph.
This particular verse draws out attention to many aspects of Joseph’s character and also to God’s willingness to involve us in His plans. Joseph was engaged to Mary when he first discovered that she was pregnant. In Jewish custom, engagement was more definite than it is today, and the engagement could only be broken by divorce. Finding Mary pregnant would imply that she had committed adultery and under the Jewish law, the punishment was stoning to death. However, instead of pursuing this option Joseph decided to separate from her in a discreet manner. We can but imagine the pain that he experienced finding out about the pregnancy, when he knew the child was not his. But God speaks to him through a dream and explains how Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Without any hesitation, he believes what he has been told and rather than rejecting her, willingly prepares to take her as his wife. He did this, knowing that there would be gossip about the couple, because Mary was to give birth before they are married.
As we read on in the story, time and again God warns Joseph about the risks that they faced as a family, because of the baby Jesus. Each time Joseph acts according to the instructions God has given him and, at great inconvenience to himself and his family, moves to different places so that the baby is kept safe. All the time, knowing that the child was not truly his own. His faithfulness to all that God was doing at great cost to himself, is an example to us.
In the first dream, Joseph had been told that the child’s name was to be Jesus. In the verse above we see him taking full responsibility for the child that was born to Mary by giving him this name. While it was not his child, he still was involved in his upbringing from the time of birth. God was pleased to have Joseph involvement by him naming the child and actively participating in His plans.
Do you participate actively in the things God is doing, not reluctantly or hesitatingly, but fully involved in working with Him to achieve the purposes that He has determined?