Lessons From A Christmas Story

As we get ready to celebrate Christmas, my thoughts went to someone in the Christmas story that gets very little attention. Scripture speaks about Jesus and Mary but we hear so little about Joseph…the earthly father of Jesus.

In much of the study that has been done about Joseph, most researchers agree on several points. Here they are:

Most believe that Joseph died before Jesus began his public ministry. There are several portions of scripture that would point to this. First, Joseph isn’t mentioned being present at the Wedding in Cana where Jesus changed the water into wine. Yet Mary is mentioned.

Second, the story of the crucifixion provides some interesting details. Joseph is not present at the crucifixion while Mary is mentioned. At the crucifixion, Jesus instructed John to take care of Mary, which would be unusual if Joseph had still been alive. After the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea takes the body of Jesus. This would ordinarily have been a task given to the father.

There is even another hint in scripture that would support the death of Joseph during the lifetime of Jesus. Luke 2:33-35 details a conversation Simeon had with Joseph and Mary. Even though both Joseph and Mary were present, Simeon simply addressed Mary. Simeon says this:

This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but He will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.

Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce your very soul but makes no mention of Joseph. It seems Simeon knew that Joseph would not be alive to see all that would happen to Jesus.

We don’t know for certain that Joseph was dead before Jesus public ministry but the evidence points to that.

Here’s what we do know about Joseph. First, he was alive and a part of the life of Jesus until Jesus was twelve years of age. Luke 2:41-42 speaks about Joseph and Mary attending the Holy Days with Jesus when he was twelve. You may recall that this was the time Mary and Joseph mistakenly left Jesus at the temple. This is the last mention in scripture about Joseph being with Jesus.

So what can we learn from the few verses in scripture that mention Joseph? Here are four things to think about:

God picked Joseph to model for Jesus what earthly fatherhood looked like: We know Joseph had at least twelve years to teach Jesus about life. We know Joseph spent time with Jesus training him to be a carpenter and teaching him about the spiritual issues in life. It is reasonable to believe that Joseph taught a young Jesus how to be a godly man.

Joseph cared about others more than he cared about himself: When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant and he wasn’t the father, he certainly could have broken the engagement. In fact, in our world today there are many men who would do just that. Many of us would be upset by the news or just want to save face and end the relationship. We need to be realistic. If our fiancée came to us and said she was pregnant but the father was God that would be hard to believe.

Yet Joseph did believe Mary’s explanation and protected and cared for Mary and Jesus for the remainder of his life.

Joseph did remarkable work and received no recognition: Joseph spent years of his life serving as a faithful husband and father, scripture barely mentions him, and yet he faithfully served his family and the Son of God.

 Joseph believed what God told him and he obeyed: When the angel came to Joseph in the dream and told him it was fine to marry Mary he did it. Joseph obeyed when God told him to flee to Egypt to miss a confrontation with Herod. Joseph obeyed when God told him to return to Israel after the death of Herod.

We have many followers of Christ who either don’t listen when God speaks to them or they hear God but choose not to obey. Joseph listened and obeyed.

As you think about Christmas this year remember these four points. Also remember, that like Joseph, God has placed you where you are for a purpose. Don’t lose sight of God’s purpose for you. You have valuable work that only you can do…just like Joseph. If we could talk with Joseph I bet he wouldn’t regret a day of doing what God asked him to do.

Happy Birthday To Me

Suppose you have a birthday coming up. What is the one question everyone asks you? You know what it is, What do you want for your birthday? When it is our birthday, most of us start thinking weeks ahead of our birthday for that perfect gift. We may hint about the gift to our family and friends or just blurt out what we really want.

Let me tell you about a man who has taken a different approach to his birthday celebration. Instead of focusing on what he can get for his birthday he decided to give. Bob Blackley, from North Carolina, spends his birthday standing at an intersection giving away money. He does it every year. This year Bob celebrated his 59th birthday by standing at a busy street corner holding a cardboard sign that reads:

I have a home,
I have a job,
Could you use an extra $5.00?

Bob passed out $800 dollars to 160 people who drove by.

What a different perspective than the one pervasive in our culture. In a world of what’s in it for me, Bob looks at how he can celebrate by serving others.

I am reminded of someone else who lived an earthly life of service…Jesus. Remember the time when Jesus learned about the death of John the Baptist? The Book of Matthew tells us that Jesus went to a quiet place to be alone but the crowds still followed Him. Jesus couldn’t find any peace and quiet. His disciples told Jesus to send the crowds away so they could go and buy food. That would give Jesus a chance for the solitude He wanted. Rather than an inward, selfish focus, the scriptures tell us that Jesus was concerned for the people in the crowd and fed them. In fact, He fed them in a miraculous way. With five loaves and two fish Jesus fed over 5,000 people that day. No inward focus for Jesus but rather a deep concern for others.

Am I saying don’t enjoy your birthday and the gifts you receive? Of course not. What I am saying is don’t forget in all you do to focus on serving others. There are a lot of folks who are struggling daily and just need you, through your actions, to remind them that Jesus loves them. You can show that love of Christ in a tangible way by simply focusing on others.


Developing Godly Character: Service to Others

I was sitting with my daughter this week when she picked up a magazine that came to her in the mail.  The magazine advertised a popular doll and a variety of doll accessories.  As we looked through the magazine we started closely examining some of these doll accessories.  Here are a few accessories that stood out to us from the magazine:

  • A science lab set ($36)
  • A school backpack set for dolls ($28)
  • Braces and retainer called the healthy smile set ($14)
  • Allergy free lunch for your doll ($28)

Now there are pages of accessories like this.  But as my daughter and I started talking about this we couldn’t help but wonder about spending priorities.  Why would anyone spend this kind of money on doll accessories when we have children throughout the world that can’t afford to eat? How can some people justify paying $28 for an allergy free doll lunch that will never be consumed when real children are starving?  There are many reputable organizations that can feed a child for an entire month for $10.

As we think about the elements of Godly character, I can’t help but believe that service to others must be on the list.  In my former days as a police officer, I think about kids who had little food, those who were abused, those who only dreamed about clean clothes and a clean room, and those who desperately needed a home.  I can’t help but think about the verse in Matthew 11 that says this, And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded. Certainly many children in our society need a cup of cold water and much more.

So instead of spending our money on things of this world with no eternal significance, instead of getting caught up in the advertising of the day with holidays approaching, may I suggest something different?  Serve those who really need your help. Offer your own cup of water and more to one of the least of these. Step up and make a difference in the life of a child or in the life of someone that only you can reach. Those that need help are all around us. All we need to do is look.