God's greatest gift: 1. Joseph – the delivery man (Matthew 1:18-25; 2:13-15,19-23)
In the nativity plays Joseph is often a bit of an ‘extra’ – it’s not quite clear what he’s for. Admittedly, he didn’t have a part directly in Jesus’ conception or birth, but if Jesus was God’s gift then Joseph was the delivery man. Joseph was spoken to by God through dreams four times: first to assure him that he should take the pregnant girl to be his wife; then to warn him to flee to Egypt in the face of the treachery of the false king Herod; and finally twice to tell him to return to Israel and specifically to Nazareth. As the delivery man, it is Joseph who makes sure that God’s gift gets on time to where it needs to be – Bethlehem, Egypt, Nazareth.
There is more than a passing resemblance between Mary’s husband and his ancient namesake, the son of Jacob (see Genesis 37-50). Both were spoken to in dreams and went to Egypt in order to rescue God’s people through their simple trust, their integrity of character and their obedience in the face of opposition. They played their part in the unfolding plan of God’s redemption – in one case saving Judah, the ancestor of king David, in the other case saving Jesus, the great descendent of David.
It was Joseph who stood alongside Mary as she nursed her son and who listened for God’s direction as all new parents should. Joseph became the adoptive father of Jesus, at least for a time. How might he have felt? We can only speculate, as throughout Matthew’s narrative Joseph is the silent figure. In fact, there is only one word that we know for certain he must have spoken, because Matthew 1:25 tells us that it was, as the custom would have been, Joseph who formally gave the God-appointed name to the baby. The one word we know Joseph said was ‘Jesus’. Now if there’s one word to be known for speaking, can you think of a better one?