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The Nativity Story

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The Earthly Father

By Candy Arrington
Guest Writer

CBN.comScripture gives just enough information about Joseph to leave us wondering about this behind-the-scenes character in the grand drama of the nativity story. We know Joseph was of the lineage of King David, a devout Jew, a man of integrity, a carpenter, and that he was obedient to God’s instruction. But what were his fears, frustrations, and fulfillments as the adoptive father of God’s only son?

We can only speculate about the emotional makeup of this man. Was he troubled by the rumors that surely swirled around the seemingly premature arrival of his firstborn? How did he feel about raising a child who was not his own? Did he wonder why God chose him to play a part in this divine fulfillment of prophecy?

Scripture reveals that Joseph was a man of integrity and sensitivity. Upon learning of Mary’s pregnancy, he formulated a plan to divorce her quietly. Undoubtedly, he was crushed by this perceived betrayal on Mary’s part. But he resisted the urge to disgrace her publicly, which most likely would have led to her stoning. Clearly, Joseph loved Mary.

One interesting fact about Joseph is his immediate response to God’s instruction. He obeyed without questions. Joseph’s obedience is first seen as he follows the guidance of the Angel of the Lord in a dream and takes Mary as his wife, despite her pregnancy. Surely, he had doubts about the wisdom of this action, but there is no indication that he argued or hesitated. Further evidence of his obedience is seen in his giving his son the name “Jesus” and consecrating him to the Lord in the temple per Jewish law.

Then, when the Lord spoke to Joseph in a dream and instructed him to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus, Joseph trusted the message of this dream so fully he rose immediately, hastily prepared for the journey, and left during the night. The more likely thing to do would have been to wait until morning, perhaps tell family members and a few friends, ask for their prayers, make financial arrangements, and find someone to run the business in his absence. Joseph could even have stayed on his mat and argued with God until dawn about the feasibility of leaving the security of home for a foreign land. Instead, he heeded the urgency of God’s instruction and responded with unquestioning obedience.

The Bible tells us that Joseph and Mary had other children: James, Joses, Judas, Simon, and daughters, but the firstborn always holds a special place in our hearts. Surely, Joseph was never more aware of his status as Jesus’ adoptive father than the day Mary and Joseph returned to the temple following Passover, searching and finding the child Jesus sitting with, and questioning, the teachers. Jesus looked at his parents, and with a voice of chastisement, asked, “Didn’t you know I’d be about my Father’s business?” Although Joseph was bewildered by this response, perhaps it was not until then that he began to grasp on some level that his son’s life and ministry would reach far beyond the carpenter shop.

This encounter in the temple when Jesus was twelve is the last mention of Joseph in scripture. Joseph trained Jesus in the business of carpentry and provided for his religious education. We can envision Joseph in the shop with his son – a word of instruction, an arm around the shoulders, father and son partaking of a noon meal, a shared laugh, perhaps the reciting of scripture followed by or a phase of encouragement and praise – as Joseph lived out his quiet role as earthly father in God’s divine plan for the fulfillment of prophecy and the redemption of mankind.

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Candy Arrington is a freelance wrtier from Spartanburg, South Carolna. She is also the coauthor of AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide, Broadman & Holman Publishers. Visit her Web site.


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