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?