The stories of Zacharias, Elizabeth and the virgin Mary, all build up
to the main event and Joseph is the man for the hour.


Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother
Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she
was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph, being a
just man, and not wanting to make her a public example,
was minded to put her away secretly.

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel
of the
Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son
of David,
do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for
that which is
conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will
bring forth a Son,
and you shall call His name Jesus, for
He will save His people
from their sins."

All this was done which was spoken by the Lord through the
prophet, saying, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and
a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which
is translated,
"God with us."

Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of
Lord commanded him.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that
the world should be registered. So all went to be
everyone to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth,
Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem,
he was of the house and lineage of David. He
registered with
Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

While they were there, the days were completed for her to be
delivered. She brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped
in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because
was no room for them in the inn.

                              Matthew 1:18-24 & Luke 2:1-7 NKJV, condensed


            H-e-r-e-'-s JOSEPH! Gentlemen, Take Notes

We will never know anything Joseph said. He is not quoted in the Bible
and therefore remains forever silent. In his case though, words were
not needed. His actions did the speaking.

Joseph was in a dilemma from the very start. He had a pregnant
fiancee and he knew he didn't do it. From Matthew's gospel we learn
that Joseph considered his options. He didn't want to disgrace Mary
publicly. But he was thinking how to end their relationship. Divorce
laws were simple. All that was required to void the marriage contract,
was that Joseph sign the papers.

I have always liked this picture of Joseph. Most guys would have acted
out their anger and humiliation--She did that to me!!! Novels and
movies are full of tragedies about men who react with rage and
create hell for all involved, especially for anyone who loved them.
Joseph was different. Despite his own pain and unanswered questions,
he thought of Mary and how to make their separation as easy for her
as possible! Joseph gave gentle-man a new meaning.

That's when Joseph had the first of several dreams which guided his
actions. An angel told him not to fear; the babe in Mary's womb was
God's child. He is to be named Jesus because he will save his people
from their sins. Joseph, son of David, rise to the occasion. You have
the blood of Israel's greatest king flowing through your veins. Do not
be afraid. God is with you; Immanuel!

After his dream, Joseph had a new slate of options. Actually, just two--
to believe or not to believe. He wanted to give Mary the benefit of the
doubt. So he put his trust in God and accepted the assignment.
Joseph and Mary became partners in faith as well as in marriage. For
the rest of his life Joseph would be the protector of, and provider for,
Mary and God's son, Jesus. Together, Joseph and Mary would believe
what they did not understand. They would tackle the problems,
share the joys, and do whatever was necessary.

Life is full of surprises, like the announcement of Caesar Augustus
who thought he owned the whole world. At the time of Jesus' birth,
the land of Palestine was part of the Roman Empire. The Jewish
people were free to worship and live there, but they were ever
mindful to be alert, cautious, and not cause trouble.

But trouble cuts both up and down. The official pronouncement
from the Roman Emperor was a political event totally out of
Joseph's control. It was an unwelcome decree because a census
meant higher taxes. The poor would get poorer; the rich would get
richer. There was nothing Joseph could do about this new set of
circumstances, except to keep on believing. The Emperor of the
world and the Savior of the world were about to co-exist.

The registration required Joseph and Mary to leave Nazareth and
travel to his ancestral home, a little place called Bethlehem. It was a
trip of about 60 miles--lots of travel time to ponder this sting of
injustice. It was a long way to go with a new wife expecting her first
baby. If there were creeping doubts, we wouldn't be surprised. 

Whether Joseph had ever been to Bethlehem, or if he knew anybody
there, we do not know. What Luke does tell us is that after the long
and weary journey, Joseph could find no accommodations for the
night. All the inns were full. A travelers nightmare, and no one
offered to take them in. Within that crowded city, he was probably
alone with his full-term Mary. The message of Immanuel did not
seem to fit the situation. If God is with us, where is God now?

No other details are given. Mary delivered her baby, wrapped
him up in long, narrow bands of cloth and found a manger for his
bed. The feeding trough implies they were in some kind of shelter
for animals. From our perspective, not a good place to be. It's not
looking good for the new father.

There Joseph stood. Silent, gentle, and loving, with straw under
his feet. The ordeal of travel, lodging and delivery behind him. The
baby the angel called a savior was asleep in a manger! His wife,
God's favored one, having just delivered this most special child
in a cattle stall off some back alleyway! All of this took place in the
stillness of the night, with no fanfare. Was it credible? Who would
accept the truth of any of this?

Yet, out beyond the range of Joseph's hearing, God celebrated
the birth of Jesus with a splendid hallelujah chorus. Joseph, son
of David, don't be afraid to keep on believing!


Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.


Icebreaker: Briefly tell about one of your more memorable travel experiences.    
                      What happened and why does it stand out in your mind?


Joseph, son of David! A title like that is enough to make a person stand
up straight and feel a tingle of inspiration.
            How does your name or family affect how you feel about yourself?


Joseph doesn't say anything. Instead his actions are his words.
            Why do you suppose he was not quoted?
            If you were going to put words in Joseph's mouth, what would they be?
            Do you know anyone like Joseph who quietly does what is needed?  


God was turning Joseph's life up-side-down.
            What made Joseph able to do the job God had for him?
            Was it fair for God to ask so much of him?


Joseph's gentleness may have been a good thing in his relationship
with Mary. But it didn't help him get a room in Bethlehem.
            How does it make a man feel when he can't provide for his family? 
            Have you ever felt the same way?
            Who or what was responsible for his predicament?


Immanuel means, "God with us." In what ways was God with Joseph and
Mary when they arrived in Bethlehem and couldn't find accommodations?
            Should God have intervened to make life better for the holy family?
            What does it take on our part to keep on believing?


Could it be God wanted his son to be born in lowly circumstances?
            If so, what statement was God making?
            In what ways does your congregation "walk among the poor"?


Mary had been full of joy and anticipation. She felt favored by God and
special in God's sight.
            How do you think Mary's mood affected Joseph?
            Do you think the reality of their situation dampened her enthusiasm?
            Do the events of this story sound to you like Mary was favored/special?


Do you see ways in which Joseph and Mary complemented each other?
            Any traits which one of them had which balanced the other one?
If you are married, maybe you would like to share how your spouse
            adds to your life something which you lack.

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