Being a woman, I tend to focus on Mary rather than Joseph when I look at the Holy Family. However, in the season of Advent, Joseph has much to teach us about what it means to wait, trust, and be faithful to God.
Joseph was in a difficult situation. The woman he loved and was supposed to marry was with child, and he knew that it wasn’t his baby. He was a good man who wanted to do the right thing. Under the law, she should be stoned, but he doesn’t want that to happen. Instead, he decides to divorce her quietly. Before he can do that, an angel appears to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. . . When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” (Matthew 1:20-24)
In an instant, Joseph’s life was turned upside-down. Whatever he had imagined his life with Mary was going to look like, this wasn’t it. Like Mary, he had a choice. He could have said “No.” He could have ignored the dream, divorced Mary, and gone on to have a nice quiet life with another young lady from Nazareth. Sure, he would have had some challenges, but he could have avoided the need to flee from Bethlehem in the middle of the night. He wouldn’t have had to bear the responsibility of making sure that the savior of the Jewish people made it to adulthood. No doubt, it would have been the easier path.
Joseph didn’t do that. Instead, he took the message to heart and obeyed God without question. He had no idea where the path would lead. He was only given the next step – take Mary as your wife. He had to wait and trust in God to see how it would all turn out.
In Advent, we call to mind that unfailing trust that Mary and Joseph had in God’s plan. They were one-hundred percent willing to cooperate with God’s plan. They were human. They must have had fear and uncertainty. There were plenty of times when the road was hard. They must have had moments when they wondered where God was leading them. Yet, they trusted.
I have much to learn from that trust. Admittedly, God’s messages to me don’t come straight from an angel (at least not any that I am aware of). They come in quiet whispers in prayer, in God’s Word in scripture, in the words of a trusted friend or the guidance of my spiritual director. Still, I am much more likely to question then to answer with a trusting “Yes.” I debate, pray some more, think about it, try it my way, fall on my face (repeatedly), get up, try again, pray some more, and eventually come around to doing it God’s way. Perhaps you can relate?
During these days of Advent, I want to try to be more like St. Joseph. I want to trust that God has a plan that is better than mine, even when I can only see the first step. I want to believe that God will always keep me in his loving care and that faithfulness to God will always work for my eternal good. Lord, I believe. Please help my unbelief.
– Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur