As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:20-21 CEB
My husband and I became “empty nesters” this fall after nearly 24 years of parenting. As we returned the younger one to college and took the eldest to the airport for a job overseas, I was amazed at how quickly the years had passed since the arrival of our firstborn. I still remember vividly how my husband was calm in the midst of the storm when the baby decided to arrive at Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. We hadn’t packed a bag for the hospital. We hadn’t finished our child birthing classes or read all the chapters in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Our doctor had been on call all weekend and would not be available; and, surprise (!), surgery would be required. My nerves were on edge; but my partner was calming and encouraging. In a few hours, he made the phone calls announcing the joyful news: “It’s a boy!”
In the nativity story of Jesus, as in birth tales throughout the ages, most of the story is about the mother and child. Ann Weems writes in her poem, “Getting to the Front of the Stable,” that Joseph is often set in the background of the crèche, where we hardly notice him. We don’t know a lot about the carpenter who would become Jesus’ earthly father. We do know that he was present and accounted for at Mary’s side. Far from family members who might give aid and away from whatever comforts home might offer, it was surely a blessing to Mary to have Joseph tending her lovingly as she gave birth and protectively and vigilantly watching over the child in the manger. He confidently and faithfully named the child following the angel’s leading and, in the days and years to come, looked after Jesus’ wellbeing. Can’t you picture Joseph beaming with pride as the visitors came to behold the Holy Child? This quiet, loving support was a good start in the adventure he and Mary would have raising Jesus into the man who would teach, preach, heal, and save. As we consider the care Joseph offered to Mary and the babe, let’s give thanks for people in our own lives who have offered quiet, behind-the-scenes support at important times!
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Dear God, thank you for choosing Joseph to share his life with Mary and to love and guide Jesus. We are grateful that you continue to show your love through special people in our lives. Amen.
Betty is Director of Women’s Ministries for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Georgia (www.gadisciples.org). She is active at Decatur First Christian Church, where her husband, James, is pastor. They are the parents of two young adults, a black lab, and two cats. Betty attended Union Theological Seminary in NYC and will celebrate the 30th anniversary of her ordination next summer. She enjoys leading retreats and workshops. Other activities include: Atlanta’s Alliance Children’s Theatre Guild, book club, church choir, Spanish language learning, silly computer games, and occasional guitar playing. Life is full!