14 January 2014

The Father Of God

One of the greatest injustices of setting a day to represent the birth of Christ namely the 25th of December is that we have limited our celebration and reflection of it to that time of the year only. Most of us are guilty of remembering Christ’s birth as often as we remember our on – once a year. Honestly speaking, we only ever sing songs, listen to sermons and read and recount the story of Jesus’ birth at Christmas. I think that’s unfortunate because Christ’s birth was a milestone in the history of mankind. Bebo Norman, a contemporary Christian musician wrote:
And the angels filled the sky
All of heaven wondered why
Why the King would choose to be
Be a baby born to die
It seems the Lord’s Supper has ‘rescued’ the event of Christ’s death from such a fate. I am convinced that is why Jesus actually instituted it – “Do this in remembrance of me” he said.

In a bid to rebel against this unfortunate trend, I wish to reflect upon the oft overlooked role that one man played in the birth and life of Christ. His contribution is always mentioned at the very beginning of Christ’s earthly life but soon after that he is never mentioned again, neither by people who speak of Christ’s birth and life or even by the bible itself.

This man is of course, Joseph. There is some disagreement about Joseph. Some suppose he was a middle to older aged man. Some traditional writings further suggest that he had already been married and was widowed with several children. In fact, most image representations of him show him grey haired and bald. But early writers had a bias. In a bid to defend the virgin birth which was in doubt they may have been inclined to stretch facts and depict Joseph as very old and Mary as very young to discourage people from thinking that Jesus was conceived by their coming together out of wedlock.

We'll never know for sure how old Joseph was at Christ's birth while we're on earth. But I am more inclined to think that he was a younger man. I have a lot of respect for a young Joseph. I imagine a young Joseph to be focused rather than living life without any real intent. I imagine that he wanted to be successful and worked hard. I imagine that he, like any other young man, had plans. He certainly had his sights set on a young lady named Mary. He must have looked forward to marrying her and raising a family with her.

But life is no fairy tale and like many real life stories, things soon came crumbling down. For Joseph, it was when he found out that the young lady he loved had fallen pregnant. I bet he was devastated. But young Joseph was a good man and sincerely loved Mary so much so that he decided that rather than soothe his pain by battering her reputation, telling everyone how terrible and how lacking in chastity Mary was, he opted to quietly end his relationship with her instead.

I would imagine that a young Joseph soon picked himself up and begun to re-strategize but God had other plans. And this is where my respect for this man comes in.

I don’t think the average fellow who is just starting out with a promising career, already earning some good money and rising up all the ladders that this life has on offer would agree to father the child of his pregnant fiancĂ©e. A child changes things. That powerful car, nice house in a prime location, big wedding or great vacation all have to be put aside to not only ensure the safe arrival of the child but prepare for its future. A child means goodbye to a lot of the time you looked forward to having with your new wife. It means dirty diapers and late nights. It means missing out on late nights and weekends away with friends or special events you would otherwise have attended. The damning thing about it is that raising a child is a long term endeavour, at least 18 years and many times much longer. That is why the average teenage girl who tells her boyfriend that she has gotten pregnant, sees the man, younger or older, run in the opposite direction. Not many guys, especially still youthful, would consider such a sacrifice for their own child conceived out of wedlock but Joseph embraced it for a child conceived that was not even his own.

Joseph laid his hopes and dreams aside for a cause that was much bigger than him. I dare say he laid it aside for the greatest cause in mankind’s history – ever. God calls young men and women to do all sorts of things for him and many are willing until those callings begin to mess with their plans and comforts. And that’s why I am convinced that very few young men would agree to do what a young Joseph did because of how much it cost him. I’m not sure that I would.

Consider how it all ends. Joseph is not mentioned again after Christ’s 12th birthday. Sure it cost Mary a lot too but at least she gets mentioned during and even after Christ’s death. So prevalent was her role that she is worshipped thousands of years later in the Catholic Church. But for Joseph, it’s like he never existed. He certainly doesn’t exist in the pages of scripture after the first few chapters of the gospels that narrate Christ’s birth. After Bethlehem we all pretty much forget him. After all he sacrificed he is forgotten in the early pages of the story of Christ. Which man would sign up to lose so much and gain so little in the end? Sure, the title “the Father of God” has a ring to it, but when it comes down to it, there’s not much else there on this side of eternity.

I have no doubt though that Joseph will have many crowns for the humble, soon forgotten and life interrupting role he played in the grand story of redemption. Such sacrifice cannot go unnoticed by God in heaven. A man we may pity now on earth will be the envy of many in heaven. A young Joseph is a challenge to any young person with hopes and dreams and a promising future who God calls to take a road that ‘ruins’ all those things. How glorified and honoured God must feel when a man or woman makes such a sacrifice even though it costs them so much with so little earthly gain. I have a lot of respect for a young Joseph and I look forward to meeting him in heaven. He must have been quite a man!