Joseph, the forgotten man.

Holy family - line art icon(The Joseph Monologue, written as continuity for the Christmas cantata, derives from the essay below.   In preparation it became clearer that Joseph is actually the “manager” of the Christmas story.  All the players do their part to lift up the meaning of Jesus’ advent but Joseph is unique.  To everyone else the angels explain what is happening but to Joseph they give directions.  He is the one that gets things done.) 

To hear the Monologue as intended, press the play button on the sound bar.

The world knows Joseph as the father of Jesus and he was that in every way that counts, but he is so often taken for granted. After all, little is known of him. His role is to provide for the holy family while nurturing his wife’s son in the ways of manhood and godliness. Jesus’ divine heritage wasn’t enough.

When God chose Mary, he chose Joseph too.  If Mary is an archetype for love and devotion then Joseph is the archetype for leadership and provision.   

We don’t know how old Joseph was in relation to Mary. Scripture does not offer any testimony regarding the direct encounter with Jesus and Joseph his father. Clearly much can be inferred. Joseph was ever present, a continuous thread to the ordination of events by God and the fulfillment of prophecies.

We are never given a direct knowledge of how he thought about things. We do know that Joseph looked to God for direction and responded in obedience.  He was among the most visited by angels. We know that when he received guidance, even in dreams, he pondered, humbled himself, made a choice and acted accordingly. We have from him nothing like the Magnificat or any of the great pronouncements of Simeon or Anna but God told Joseph this child was special, the divine union in Mary, the Savior.

The catalog of Joseph’s obedience is long. Joseph was instrumental in the fulfillment of the prophecies. Mary might have been stoned to death but Joseph received her and the child as his own; he could have simply divorced her but he didn’t. He undertook the long, arduous journey to Bethlehem with Mary at term, and secured shelter where there was no lodging. He saw to the divine birth. He got them to the temple in Jerusalem in time for Jesus’ dedication. He led Mary and Jesus to Egypt and back, following their forefathers’ footsteps. On returning he establish their home in Nazareth. He took the family to Jerusalem each year for the Passover, a 65 mile walk from their Nazareth home.

One might suppose that Joseph was a man of few words but the words he spoke were surely momentous, instilling wisdom and righteousness in his children. In Jesus’ 12th year, Jesus began to grow into his anointing, showing in himself the increase in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God and man. Joseph would have been the father of James, a key leader of the early Church, and other of Jesus’ siblings.

What was Joseph thinking all those years as he raised God’s child in his home and facilitated Jesus nurture into the Son of Man? Did Joseph understand what was meant by the angel’s first declaration? Did Joseph know that Jesus would be the great teacher of men, the great healer and miracle worker? Did Joseph know that his son would challenge the powers and authorities of Jerusalem, of Israel and of the world? Did Joseph know that his son would be falsely accused, scourged, mocked and crucified? Did he know that Jesus would rise from the grave?

Why did God bring Joseph home so early and leave Mary to witness the great passion of her child? Is it possible that as Jesus approached his ministry, Joseph would have become an obstacle to the heavenly Father’s work? Or was he taken home, as others before him, to be with the Father for a job well-done? This side of the Jordan we shall never know. Regardless, it was God’s plan and it is perfect. But God often picks the most humble of men to willingly stand aside and assume the forgotten roles while still giving their best to God – the men who assume their obligations and get things done, without compromise or recognition.  

What might Joseph’s last words to Jesus have been?

“Jesus my son, I heard the angels’ proclamations but I cannot begin to comprehend where you came from and what you came for. The water has become too deep for me and I can only call on God to help me leave you to your work. Every day your mother and I remember your first day. We see you as a babe in arms wrapped in swaddling cloths, the first miracle. We knelt quietly as visitors come by divine appointment speaking great mysteries. Your mother and I were awe-struck by your proclaimed greatness-to-be while totally dependent and vulnerable. We dedicated you in the Temple. We traveled to Egypt and back again and moved to Nazareth because of the angel’s leading. We showed you the way to Jerusalem and placed you in the midst of the great Passover year after year. We matured together. I love you, son.

“As I leave this world I leave you to do what you came to do. If I could stay, I would desire nothing more than to sit at your feet as you become what you came to be. I pray I have lead you well into manhood. You do not need to be reminded but such is a father’s way:  stay close to God always, pray constantly, obey immediately, trust whatever may come. Care for your mother that it may be well with you. You have honored me well. You know you are God’s child. I know you are ready. You can do this.”

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