I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking about Joseph recently. Sure it had something to do with the fact that I was preaching at Nativity Lutheran the last Sunday of Advent and the reading was from Matthew 1: 18 – 25 which centers on Joseph, but more to the point it has to do with my name. I am Joseph Daniel Sellepack III which implies that I was named after two other Josephs who were ultimately named after other Josephs including this Joseph, the father of Jesus.
The text says that Joseph was a righteous man. Now that is something to live up to. I’ve always thought that righteousness was a matter of keeping rules and making a clean life the goal. Keep your nose clean – wash behind your ears – and above all don’t ever get caught hanging out with the wrong people. That’s kind of how it was always presented to me as a kid.
As I thought more intently about this passage, I had to go deeper than just that. This passage is so much more than just about rules.
Rules would say that Mary should have been stoned to death or at least severely shamed for her pregnancy. Women of course have a hard time hiding their pregnancies from prying eyes and the judgement of others. But Joseph could have stayed in the background. He could have chose to not be marked by this pregnancy and instead allow Mary to bear it alone – to be mocked and ridiculed. But Joseph won’t hang out in the shadows. He goes right up front and does the righteous act. He takes Mary to be his wife.
And as Matthew tells the story it is Joseph who protects the child Jesus from the violence of Herod. It is Joseph who has the dreams and visions that lead them into Egypt. It is Joseph who stands up and takes responsibility for the unborn child and for Mary his mother.
It’s not that Joseph came from the perfect family – he didn’t, just read the geneology sometime. It’s not that Joseph kept every law or dotted every i and crossed every t. That’s not it – and I think it misses the point of the story. Righteous people take risks for others and do the just act even when there is pressure to just go along with the flow and hang out with the group. Righteous people deal with others using gentleness and tenderness and make kindness the point and use these attributes to fuel all their dealings with others.
They’re not doormats, far from it! They’re gatekeepers and they make a difference in the world. May it be so for all of us.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Peace and towels,