By Donald Shoemaker
“Another View” Guest Writer for the Grunion Gazette
Joseph is one of the key players in the Christmas Story. In the story, this adoptive father of Jesus reminds me in one way of my father — a man of quiet spirituality.
My points here will be taken from the first two chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, where Joseph is the active player. By contrast, Mary mother of Jesus is the active player in the birth account found in the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke. Reading both accounts this holiday season is well worth your time.
I voted once at a nearby church and while there I looked over its literature rack. One pamphlet caught my eye: “Spirituality for Extroverts.”
Now, I spent some years in churches that were very much geared to extroverts. Their spirituality and worship were loud, expressive and demonstrative. I found that my generally more reserved ways could be looked down on as, well, somewhat low in spirituality. I also found that many Christians expected you to be very much an extrovert when it came to trying to convert others.
So I wondered if there might also be a booklet, “Spirituality for Introverts!” Alas, a call to this church and even to the denomination’s publishing house revealed that no such booklet existed. Why not?
I think I figured it out. This particular Christian tradition is known for its quiet, subdued worship. If anything, that booklet was needed there to encourage the more exuberant ones that they could be accepted as “spiritual” too!
Joseph “wrote the book” on godly, quiet spirituality. In all three stories of his obedience, he obeyed God without saying so much as a word.
First, he obeyed the angel’s word to take Mary as his wife even though he suspected her of adultery. The two were “betrothed” (in that culture a stronger version of “engagement”) when to his sad surprise her pregnancy occurred. One thing he knew: he was not the baby’s father! So she must have been unfaithful to him and he by all rights could divorce her (divorce would end the
But an angel intervened with guidance from God. “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20 New International Version).
Their obedience in this part of the story is also seen in how he respected and protected her virginity. “He had no union with her until she gave birth to a son” (Matthew 1:25). Yes, Joseph and Mary are models of sexual propriety to our culture, which badly needs to learn this feature of the Christmas Story.
In his second and third acts of obedience, he showed himself to be a quiet but effective provider and protector of his family.
King Herod was bent on destroying this child whose royal lineage and grand birth announcement posed a threat to his brutal authority. But an angel warned Joseph, “Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt … for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him” (Matthew 2:13).
After Herod died and that danger passed, Joseph obeyed further guidance from God by returning to Israel and ultimately to Galilee (Matthew 2:21-23) for the sake of the family’s safety.
The stage was set for Jesus to grow up in the very un-royal village of Nazareth in Galilee. In that region three decades later, he would begin his humble ministry as “the people’s Messiah.”
God’s providence was at work in all this. But on the human side much of the credit, if any is to be given, must go to Joseph — quiet, steady Joseph.
Now, I’m sure there were times when Joseph did speak. Still, the Christmas story shows him to be a deeply righteous, devout and obedient man and to be all those things without words.
Being religious doesn’t have to mean being loud. Following the will of God can often be a quiet experience. In this, Joseph models well. Many of us will see ourselves in Joseph, and the rest of us can still learn.
Donald Shoemaker is Pastor Emeritus of Grace Community Church of Seal Beach.