MOVEMENT THREE : JOSEPH
Of all of the players in this most famous story, I am drawn to Joseph.
Maybe because I’m a man, a father, a husband.
His story, his role is heroic and noble; his quiet, faithful obedience to God, his gentle, kind, thoughtful care for Mary, his willing acceptance of his role as father (stepfather?) to the Messiah! We see this narrow slice of his life in a few chapters of Scripture. He seems to appear out of nowhere and disappear almost as quickly. We know virtually nothing about him before he shows up, plays his few brief measures in the song and then we hear virtually nothing from or about him again.
He plays second violin (second fiddle) to Mary. That is apparently the story of Joseph. But there’s obviously more to his story, to what led to this little slice that we see.
What is the backstory? What prepares a man to face the inevitable anxiety and doubt and confusion at this crazy, unprecedented news? What gives him his love for and commitment and devotion to Mary at the expense of himself and his reputation? How does this apparently super average blue-collar man carry not only his own stuff (doubt, shock, loss of reputation, sadness) but also carry Mary’s (choosing to “quietly divorce“ her, bear the indignity and shame and burden with her)? How does he deal with his future wife’s illegitimate pregnancy when the only explanation is her word that it’s God’s doing and a crazy dream about something that has never, ever happened before? How could he trust an angel in a vision? What about a man’s life, what about this man’s life prepared him for this?!
I think we unintentionally tend to or want to think that it just fell on him in the moment. That is very “Hollywood“ and storybook - the music swells and boom, it happens! It makes for a great song lyrics and church plays but it robs it of it’s more real weight and truth.
I suggest that the real – arguably better – story is the untold (unknown) backstory of his life. He doesn’t just “happen“ here - he is brought here, prepared for here, for this. I’m pretty sure God did not close his eyes, spin around three times and point – “And the winner is – what’s your name? Joseph? – The winner is Joseph!”
My guess, my bet is that he has somehow lived his life is such a way that he…
-could recognize and discern the voice of God (Angel) when it came
-could love and be kind to Mary even in her apparent infidelity
-could even be attracted to, connected with, involved with and trusted by Mary (whom God looked at, prepared, called, surprised in similar ways - to be the mother of the Messiah, the Savior of the world!
- would be willing to bear the weight, the heavy cost of the loss of his reputation, honor, status, his wife, his love.
- could even have space in his head and heart to take on this absolutely (literally) incomprehensible role - and to do it in virtual anonymity.
As we begin, this is what I imagine is the prayer of the Father for us:
Curious one, I want to show you through this quiet, strong man what it looks like to love in the shadows, in the quiet and unnoticed places. These places are no less important, only less visible. Learn from Joseph - the one I prepared and chose for this role - more of what it means to be humble, faithful, listening, obedient; and to do it even when presumably no one is looking. I dearly loved and trusted this man - I dearly love and trust you.