“After the wise men from the east had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The escape to Egypt.
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew’s gospel.
Joseph’s role in the birth of Jesus is often overlooked. Naturally he had cold feet about their relationship and accepting Mary’s fantastic story about an angel. Until that is, he heard from God himself in a vivid dream. It seems as if Matthews’ Joseph is a dreamer, just like Joseph son of Jacob in Genesis. So he takes on the responsibility of a young bride, a pregnancy, a long journey and the delivery of a baby in a stable! “What next?” he thinks. After remarkable visits from shepherds, and mystery men from the east bearing cryptic gifts, he is warned in another frightening dream to flee for their lives to Egypt. A land, language and people he does not know.
Essentially he is now a refugee and has to provide for his young family with his own labours and wits. Years later he dreams again and knows he must return to Galilee and in his obedience, one of scriptures’ promises is fulfilled, ‘out of Egypt have I called my son’. This was originally found in Hosea 11 and depicts the Hebrew slaves escape from Egypt, thus Jesus is identified with his people! He too was taken to Egypt by a Joseph for safety and returned to the Promised Land, so Jesus is living out their story in his life. Joseph goes on to provide for Mary, Jesus and many younger children who come later, until we hear of him no more. He taught Jesus the carpenters trade and thus provided for the family even after he was gone. Joseph is one of those strong quiet saints who prefer the supportive background role. Most of the time he works hard and provided for and protects his family. But he has a strong faith, can discern the voice of God and is ready to step forward into action whenever necessary.
Let’s thank God for Joseph this Christmas and pray that we can follow the example of this humble, faithful servant. The wise men may have brought exotic gifts to the Christ-child and the shepherds offered their admiration. But Joseph gave his loyalty, faithfulness, parental protection, quiet confidence and business sense to look after Mary and Jesus. What gifts do we offer Jesus this Christmas? In addition to thinking about the gifts you might receive and the gifts you in turn will give to others, think about a gift for Jesus! The old Christmas Carol puts it like this. “What can I give Him, Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring Him a Lamb. If I were a wise man, I’d sure do my part. So what can I give Him? I’ll give Him my heart.” First give your heart to the Lord Jesus and then your hands your feet, your brain and your giftedness, personality and even your experiences and see what he makes of them!