Advent is the time of anticipation and preparing for the celebration of the birth of Christ. In the Western church calendar, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the Sunday closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve (December 24). Depending on your faith tradition, Advent is marked by a time of reflection, prayer, and fasting.
From the Latin adventus (coming, arrival, invasion), Advent proclaims the coming of Christ in two ways: it celebrates His incarnation in a stable in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, and it anticipates His return as King of kings and Lord of lords. Christians often speak of Christ’s “first advent” and “second advent”; that is, His first and second comings to earth. The Advent celebration is both a commemoration of Christ’s first coming and an anticipation of His imminent return.
This 2023 Advent season we have chosen to set our Advent worship around four key players in the arc of God’s salvation providence: i) the Prophets; ii) Mary; iii) Joseph; and iv) the Shepherds.
Week 3: Joseph
Unlike other players in the Advent story, we don’t know much about Joseph. There are, however, important clues in the Gospels. These are some of the things we know:
- Joseph was chosen by God for one of the most important purposes in the history of mankind. He was to be the adoptive father to God’s one and only Son. “When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:18b ESV Think about this: God trusted Joseph with the responsibility of parenting Jesus.
- Joseph was a devout Jew, leading the life expected of a man from the line of David. “Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.” Luke 2:22 NKJV Each year the family went to Jerusalem for Passover. “Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival.” Luke 2:41 NLT
- Joseph was caring and considerate. He didn’t want to humiliate his betrothed, even though she would have a child before they were married. A child he did not father. “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:19 ESV
- Joseph was obedient. On three occasions he accepted divine direction heard in dreams, and did as commanded. “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’ When Joseph woke up, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her.” Matthew 1:20b,24 CSB “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Get up! Take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt…. After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in Egypt, saying ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, because those who intended to kill the child are dead.‘ So he got up, took the child and his mother, and entered the land of Israel.” Matthew 2:13-14, 19-21 CSB
- Joseph was a man of integrity. He did the honorable thing. “Joseph did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And he named him Jesus.” Matthew 1:25 ERV
Taken together, Joseph was a great father and head of his household. He had an honorable trade, and was well equipped to lead and provide for his growing family. “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” Matthew 13:55 ESV
Even though Jesus was the Son of God, it is obvious that His adoptive father would have been a role model for Him. And Joseph reared his adopted son well. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52 ESV