Not 'A Christmas Story.' But THE Christmas story. The very first -- and most important one. The story of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We know it so well, don't we? We've read the accounts in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, heard it preached in countless sermons, watched movies and documentaries about it, listened to songs proclaiming the great news that came on that holy, silent night (silent -- really though, how silent could it have been with hosts of magnificent heavenly angels singing in the skies?).
So many songs have been written about Jesus' birth -- about the infant King, His young mother, Mary; about the angelic hosts' appearaning to the shepherds and the journey of the wise men. But there's one person that sort of seems to get lost in the literary and lyrical shuffle here:
Not too much has been written or sung about the man. Yet to me, Joseph was a pretty central player in the Nativity scene. Yes, indeed -- Joseph has his own story.
Think about it. Joseph, no doubt a hard working carpenter from the House of David, chooses a young, local girl, Mary -- a virgin -- to be his bride, only to later find out that his beloved betrothed is pregnant with a child that is NOT his! Man of integrity that he is, he decides to divorce her quietly, so as not bring disgrace upon Mary and her family. An angel invades one of Joseph's dreams and tells him:
“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.”
Can you imagine? When we dream, how much of what occurs in it do we actually take to heart? When we dream of something so bizarre, so utterly off the hook, so 'this-can't-possibly-be-for-real!', don't we just chalk it up to something odd we must have eaten before we went to bed?
Yet after Joseph woke up, he did exactly what the angel told him to do. And months later, Joseph finds himself en route to Bethlehem with a very pregnant Mary in tow.
When they finally get to their destination, there are no cushy hotels to rest in and call for room service. No place to put up their tired aching (and in Mary's case, swollen) feet, no jacuzzi for Mary and Joseph to relax in with a complimentary glass of wine after their long, arduous journey. Instead, they find lodging within the confines of a cave a the bottom of a hillside home.
(Interesting sidenote: I grew up, as I'm sure you did, hearing that it was a stable or a crèche in which Jesus was born. However, I just did some research and found this bit of info at http://www.answersingenesis.org/: 'Joseph and Mary probably stayed with Joseph's relatives in Bethlehem, but because of the large influx of people, the house would have been crowded and the kataluma (guest room) was full. Consequently, Joseph and Mary would have been relegated to living in the lower level of the house. ....Some homes in the Judean hill country were built right into a hillside, so the lower level may have even been a cave, with the house built on and around it.').
When Mary goes into labor, there is no House of David Hospital or Bethlehem Medical Center around the corner and down the street for Joseph to rush her to. There are no helpful, encouraging midwives on hand, no skillful doctors waiting to help deliver the Messiah into the world.
There's only Joseph. A very tired carpenter. Experienced in woodworking. Not so experienced in helping his wife through labor and delivering an infant. And the infant Son of God at that!
What do you suppose that was like for him? Awkward? Frightening? Thrilling?
I wonder.....what could Joseph have been thinking? How did he feel, being the very first person to look upon the tiny, newborn face of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate? Even though Jesus wasn't his flesh and blood child, did Joseph's heart skip a beat or two? Did he instantly form a bond and fall in love with the precious, flailing Child in his arms?
At that moment, did Joseph remember everything the angel had foretold to him and to Mary about Jesus?
None of us will ever know, this side of Heaven. I guess those questions will be ones we'll be asking when eternity becomes our reality. Until then, you and I can only wonder and imagine.
I'm guessing Bart Millard, lead singer for the Christian band, Mercy Me, must have wondered about Joseph, too, because he wrote and recorded with his band the song, 'Joseph's Lullaby.' It's a beautiful song, whose music and lyrics (I've included both) touch my heart and make me cry everytime I hear it. It's become one of my very favorite songs of the Christmas season. A song of the love of a father for his newborn son. And God's One and Only Son.
|'In The Arms of Joseph', by Simon Dewey|
Perhaps this song will become one of your Christmas favorites as well. Just keep a tissue or two handy.
Go to sleep my Son
This manger for your bed
You have a long road before You
Rest Your little head
Can You feel the weight of Your glory?
Do You understand the price?
Or does the Father guard Your heart for now
So You can sleep tonight?
Go to sleep my Son
Go and chase Your dreams
This world can wait for one more moment
Go and sleep in peace
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
Go to sleep my Son
Baby, close Your eyes
Soon enough You'll save the day
But for now, dear Child of mine
Oh my Jesus, Sleep tight