What Advice Would St. Joseph Give Us?
One of the central figures of the Advent season is St. Joseph, the husband of Mary. Based on scripture, what advice would Joseph give to us? I’m suggesting perhaps these three pieces of advice.
The first one is this: Remember, God works marvels through ordinary people. Joseph was a fairly ordinary person. John’s gospel doesn’t even mention him. Mark’s gospel mentions him only in passing, calling Jesus “the carpenter’s son.” In Luke’s gospel the focus is on Mary, with Joseph taking a back seat. Only in Matthew’s gospel is Joseph given any real attention, yet he utters not a single word in any of the gospels.
Joseph was content to play a supporting role in the great drama of salvation. He did not have to be center stage. He embraced being ordinary, for the truth is, God works most often through ordinary people. In the gospels we see God working through a young peasant girl named Mary, a group of lowly shepherds, a handful of mangy fishermen, an assortment of devoted women, a vertically challenged tax collector, a sensitive Roman soldier, a widow down to her last two coins. St. Joseph reminds us that being faithful to God is far more important than being rich, famous, or extraordinary.
The second piece of advice is this: Keep trusting in God when your life is turned upside down. The Annunciation turned Mary’s life upside down. It also turned Joseph’s life upside down. Mary’s pregnancy initially caused Joseph great anguish for he knew her child was not his. He honestly didn’t know what to do. As he tossed and turned in bed at night, his anguish was finally eased by an angel who told him to take Mary as his wife, for her child was “the Son of the Most High.” Joseph believed what had been revealed to him. But even then he was not given a manual on “How to Raise a Messiah.” No, he had to learn “on the job” through trial and error, one day at a time. Like us, he learned how to live by living. Like us, he had to trust in God when the path into the future was unclear.
The third piece of Joseph’s advice might be this: Life is not easy, but God is with us through all our difficulties. The Gospels make it clear that Joseph did not have a carefree life. The trip to Bethlehem was no pleasant excursion into the countryside; rather it was an arduous trek through inhospitable lands with a young wife who was nine months pregnant. The flight into Egypt had to be traumatic. We can catch a glimpse of what this upheaval must have meant for Joseph when, on the evening news, we see the weary and terror stricken faces of today’s refugees. Added to these hardships were the daily trials of a working man trying to scratch out a living for his wife and son in a poor country being economically drained by a foreign military power.
Christian songwriter Michael Card has written a beautiful song entitled “Joseph’s Song” that captures both Joseph’s apprehension and his awe at the birth of Jesus. I recommend that you listen to this beautiful song now or later. This version from Youtube is accompanied by still shots from the movie, The Nativity. The song takes 4 minutes. Click below:
During Advent may we all learn from St. Joseph, this ordinary and unassuming man, who, in all the circumstances of his life, held fast to his belief in the God of absolute goodness and infinite love.
What do you think of St. Joseph?
Do any of the pictures used in this reflection touch you?
Thanks for this beautiful reflection on Joseph during this Advent season. As I am going through my own struggles at work it is just what I needed to hear.
Joseph strikes me as the “background” guy who was present to what God wanted him to do. He simply served Mary and Jesus. A good reminder for me.
I was definitely touched by the first image of Joseph and Jesus. A very human yet divine image.
A beautiful tribute to Joseph. I, too, am moved by the first picture you’ve posted. Does it have a “history”?
Dear Suzanne and all who liked the first picture: This painting was done by Jason Jenicke. His website is jasonjenicke.com. He’s a 35-year-old artist originally from Kansas City but now living in Lexington, KY. If you visit his website, you can see a gallery of beautiful paintings: religious, landscape, portraits, and animals.
Thank you! I will check out his website.
Thank you for posting the Michael Card song. It’s an old favorite of mine, but I hadn’t listened to it in some time. Joseph is my father-in-law’s name as well as my son’s. I never knew my father-in-law, as he died when my husband was a teenager, but I imagine him to be a lot like St. Joseph in his simplicity and love. He was a Carnegie Medal of Honor awardee for going into a burning factory to save a co-worker. He also saved a boy from drowning. My son has had a hard go at life, but I pray to St. Joseph often to be by his side, as he was by the side of Mary and Jesus.
In addition to the Trinity, the Holy Family is and I hope always will be my favorite! I say a prayer daily thanking God for St. Joseph, the most chaste spouse of Mary’s, and the kind, loving, caring, consoling, counseling, and comforting foster father of our savior.
Thank you! It’s just beautiful—all of it. And listening to “Joseph’s Song”—it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Joseph’s prayer is a good one for all of us: “Father show me where I fit into this plan of yours.” I would add, “and help me to fulfill your purpose for my life, even if I don’t see where I fit into your plan.”
I love the last picture of St. Joseph holding baby Jesus while Mary sleeps.
Now time for a shameless plug. My husband Kevin Keil has a song called Joesph’s Lullaby published by GIA which talks about St. Joseph as a new father and what thoughts might be going through his head. It’s dedicated to his (our) 3 boys! Check it out!
I’ve heard that song. I gave the “Peaceful Christmas” album to my mom several years ago. It’s so beautiful!! I love your husband’s music!
Annie, thank you so much! Spread the word! Happy Advent!
Michael Card is one of my favorite Christian singers and “Josephs’s Song” is a song that begs us to reflect on the ordinary doing the extraordinary, the trusting soul becoming the trustworthy one and the real difference between presents and presence. Thank you for reminding me that everything begins and ends with Jesus as “Emmanuel”. Christmas blessings to you and yours.
How very touching…thank you. Blessed Christmas-Epiphany & Peace-filled New Year…
Thanks, Melannie for this beautiful reflection. My admiration for Joseph grew when I saw the film, “The Nativity” a few years back. This week as I read the account of Joseph’s dream in Matthew’s gospel, I thought about how confused and anxious he must have been. It’s amazing he was even able to sleep, yet alone dream! Being a righteous man he only wanted to do what was right. Yet, God’s plan for Joseph was so far beyond being “right.” God’s plan for Joseph was complete trust, even when he had no idea where that would take him. Mary was wise to count on Joseph!
Thank you so much, Melannie, for this awesome reflection, and also for sharing the song about Joseph. I had never heard it before, and it was so profound. What a gift as we reflect on Joseph this 4th Sunday of Advent! Blessings of peace to you and to all during this Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany season.
Dear Melannie, after reading your Xmas email I went straight to check the website. Thanks for your beautiful and inspiring words and pictures.
It’s a help in these days for those of us in South Sudan who witness, once again, turmoil, ethnic strife and hatred. YET, we hold to our belief that GOD’s POWER OF LOVE is stronger than human failure. And we go on hoping and dreaming to become one day a Holy Family in South Sudan.
Thanks dear Melannie. Giovanna
Dear Giovanna, Thank you so much for writing. I’m sure my readers will join me in praying for your new country, South Sudan, and the turmoil you are experiencing. Dear Readers: Sr. Giovanna was my student at Notre Dame College of Ohio quite a few years ago. I am so proud of her! Melannie
I love the last picture of Joseph holding Jesus while Mary sleeps. Who is the artist of this picture and what is its title?
Who is the artist of the last picture where Mary is asleep? And what is the painting called?
I’m sorry, Angela, but I don’t know the artist. Sorry. Sr. Melannie