I've always thought Joseph gets short shift when we talk about the story of Jesus and his birth. He's the guy engaged to Mary. He's the one who takes her to Bethlehem. He's the one who finds shelter in the stable. He's the one who takes them to Egypt for awhile and then back to Nazareth and that's pretty much what we hear about Joseph. He's just sorta there, like the sheep or the cattle. But stop and think-how differently would things have turned out if Joseph had just said no?
He finds out the woman that he is engaged to is pregnant and he knows that he is not the father. We know he's honorable because he had a plan in place to marry her and then quietly divorce her in order to avoid Mary facing scandal. And when the angel comes to speak to him in a dream, he listens and does what is asked of him! More importantly, he raises Jesus as his own flesh and blood. That my friends is not a minor footnote contribution! God is the father of Jesus, but Joseph was his earthly father! True fatherhood, the love of a man for a child who is not his own can be far more precious than any of us realize!
I was reminded of this in my own life yesterday. It's also the reason I didn't blog yesterday because something big came up and it had to be dealt with immediately. My daughter called my husband early in the morning. She is being transferred to a different base and she was scheduled to leave today. She had been having problems with her Jeep, which she has to drive to the new base because she has to move herself and be reimbursed later. She's had it in the shop three times in the last week-they thought they had gotten it fixed. But when she drove her Jeep yesterday morning it started doing exactly the same thing. So, she called my husband, her step-father because, well, this was a big huge problem! She had a (and I use this term loosely) "friend" who offered to haul her Jeep, her stuff and her up to the new base but there were "strings" attached to this offer. Not cool! Let's just say daddy had his mind made up on a course of action before they even finished the conversation. I saw the look in Kenny's eyes. I knew what was coming! Come hell or high water he was going to drive cross country in order to safely deliver our daughter to the new base and fix that Jeep while he was at it! I started packing his bag.
This is not just a hop skip and a jump away. We are in the middle of the country. The drive to my parents house in Vermont is 1200 plus miles one way. My husband is driving to the southeastern coast, loading the Jeep onto a tow-dolly, hauling it up the east coast to the northern part of the United States and then turning around and driving all of the way back here! Did I mention that he is going to try to be back here by Sunday night?! By the time he's done, he will have driven about 3,000 plus miles in a matter of days. The man has a father's heart! If he didn't love my daughter like one of his own, he wouldn't be making that kind of drive!
When I married Kenny I came as a package deal. I was a full time mother. I had my two young children full time. There was not alternating weekends. There was some holiday breaks but they usually didn't happen because something always seemed to crop up that made it "impossible" for the ex to take the kids. My husband loved them and raised them just like they were his own. He always said "there are no steps in this family!" They have always been "his children".
It's an amazing and extraordinary gift, this true father's love! As we celebrate Advent let's not forget the important part that Joseph played. He loved Jesus as his own. He gave him the love of a true earthly father, without reservation! Biological connection is not always the mark of parenthood. The true standard is how much are you willing to love? Kenny may not have the biological connection but he has the heart connection. He has shown my children the love of a true father!
Kenny's example gives me a much greater appreciation and understanding of just what Joseph did! How precious a gift indeed!
By the way, he's already there. Got the call about 30 minutes ago. Keep them in your prayers-they've got a long way to go!