We hear Mary’s voice, we hear Zechariah’s voice (for a while), we hear Elizabeth’s voice. Mary and Zechariah even get a vocal solo (song). But Joseph. He is silent. There is no mention of his words. Only his actions. But his actions speak a thousand words, revealing who he is.
Like Noah, (who was also in construction) Joseph has no lines in his story. Only swift obedience to God’s every direction. Where Mary and Zechariah have questions, Joseph has only humble obedience. He hears. He acts.
‘When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.’
This radical, trusting, unquestioning obedience cost Joseph. The story has already revealed that Joseph was ‘faithful to the law’(verse 19) but also compassionate (‘and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace’). Faithfulness and righteousness were important to him. Kindness was important to him. He was a good man.
Mary, didn’t look good anymore. In her community if word was out, eyebrows would be raising and tongues talking, whispered voices would be telling stories. If Joseph had divorced Mary, he would have evaded suspicion and kept his good name.
In taking Mary home as his wife, Joseph was effectively taking on responsibility for her pregnancy, appearing to have broken the laws of betrothal. In sheltering her and the child she carried, Joseph took on Mary’s shame, making it his own.
And in obedience. He did just that. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the death of his good name. He was willing to lose his reputation so he might do God’s will, to sacrifice his ‘appearance of goodness’ for the sake of true goodness.
We live in a world so caught up with external appearances. We’ve created whole industries around it, social media, the fashion industry, the cosmetics industry, the PR industry, personal branding, the industry of celebrity and influence. Keeping up appearances is what we do. Which ever ‘appearance’ will make us most acceptable, most accepted in the eyes of others.
Joseph did the opposite. He chose to lose his life, his reputation, his appearance of righteousness. And in so doing welcomed God into his life. He gave up ‘looking good’ in the eyes of others, for true goodness in the eyes of God.
God could have chosen anyone for His earthly adoptive father. He could have chosen a teacher of the law, a Rabbi, a synagogue leader (as long was they were from the tribe of Judah). So many others would have been more qualified when viewed through earthly eyes.
But God chose this humble carpenter.
Jesus when he grew up resembled his earthly father, Joseph, just as (what we see of) Joseph resembles his Heavenly father, God.
Joseph perhaps felt entirely ill equipped to raise the child through whom all worlds were made, through whom all people would be saved. Because he was. And in knowing this he knew he needed to listen and obey and rely on God. Unquestioningly. Obediently. Humbly. No matter what it cost.
St. Vincent DePaul wrote, “The most powerful weapon to conquer evil is humility. For evil does not know at all how to employ it, nor does it know how to defend itself against it.”
God can’t use pride (except perhaps as a cautionary tale after a fall) because pride can’t hear God’s voice, God’s plans, God’s dreams. Joseph heard God because in humility he had open ears, an open heart.
‘This is what the Lord says: ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
Where will my resting-place be?
Has not my hand made all these things,
and so they came into being?’
declares the Lord.
‘These are the ones I look on with favour:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
and who tremble at my word.’
Humility knows that all it knows is sometimes half the story, and all it sees is sometimes half the picture, and so is open to hearing more. Seeing more. Living more. With God.
God Himself came down, making Himself small, small as a seed planted silently in the ground, small as a shoot from a sawn-off stump, small as a baby laid to rest in a manger. Small as a human being. Like us.
Paul of Tarsus described this humble way of God; the small way, the meek way. The way we humans in our pride struggle to comprehend.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothingby taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
The God of all the vastness of the Universe, the Being who breathed out galaxies of spinning stars, made Himself small. Made Himself minute. Made Himself nothing. A tiny baby dependant on a humble carpenter for protection.
He came down, not to create a religion but to ignite a revolution, a Kingdom revolution that starts with every humble heart willing to hear, to trust and to obey. Willing to give up ‘looking good’ in the eyes of others, for a life of true goodness in the eyes of God.