Jesus’ earthly father should not be overlooked

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 25, 2009

NATCHEZ — Perhaps he’s the most overlooked participant in the event that changed the world forever, but this Christmas the lessons of Joseph are not to be overlooked, area ministers say.

As the earthly father of Jesus and Mary’s protector, Joseph’s role was just as important as all the others present at the Nativity in God’s eyes.

“We must remember that Joseph was chosen,” said the Rev. Simeon Green III of Doty Road Church of God in Ferriday. “He was chosen to be Mary’s husband and the earthly father of baby Jesus.”

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But not only was Joseph God’s chosen one; he exhibited great obedience to God.

Without knowing, at first, how his soon-to-be-wife was pregnant, Joseph had the chance to walk away or even give Mary up to stoning.

But he didn’t, First Presbyterian Church’s minister the Rev. Noelle Read pointed out.

“Joseph had blind faith. He knew what was at stake by staying with Mary, and he did not give her up to being stoned or ostracized. I can’t imagine how that was,” Read said.

“He knew this wasn’t his biological son. He knew he was going to be in the shadows. It was his role to do that, and how humbling.”

Joseph stayed in Jesus’ life, and became the earthly father figure for the young boy. His role in Jesus’ life is a model men can aspire to even today, said Dr. Doug Broome, senior pastor at First Baptist Church Natchez.

“He was a person who provided excellent leadership for Jesus as a parent. He protected him. He cared for him,” Broome said. “This is not easy for Joseph. He wasn’t a man without the stresses of life. He had a choice to abdicate his responsibility, but he was faithful to the finish.

“That’s what we need today; these are not easy times we are living in. A lot of people convey that once you trust God, your problems will be in the past, but that’s not true.”

God knew what he was doing when he chose Joseph, Green said.

“When God chooses his people, he has already determined what their character is. He already knows they are equipped for whatever assignment he gives.

“Joseph listened to the angel, but he also listened to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit told him what was in Mary would change the whole world.

“We should always be obedient to our heavenly father, all throughout the year.”

But why, today, do we forget Joseph’s story?

It’s our culture, Read said.

“All the focus is on the mother, nobody really asks how (the father) is doing.”

It’s easy to identify with other players in the Nativity story, like the wise men and shepherds, who came from the outside to view the greatest moment in time.

The angels in the Bible are captivating, awe-inspiring, and often frightening.

Joseph, though, displayed quiet, strong obedience.

He didn’t attract attention, Read said, admitting that even her 4-year-old son tends to ignore or misplace Joseph when playing with a traditional Nativity scene.

And for Catholics, the Rev. David O’Connor of St. Mary Basilica said, many people have a great connection to Mary.

But Joseph is the patron saint of the Italians, O’Connor said, and does carry a special place in the hearts of many Catholics with Italian roots.

As Christians across the world celebrate today, Joseph may not be remembered as much as the others. But his lessons will last the year through.