In conversation about the advent of Jesus’ incarnation and the nativity, a friend shared her daily devotional with me. She said that her church had given out an advent calendar with daily devotions, and that day’s focused on Joseph.
She explained that it mentioned that we focus on Mary the virgin who conceived, Gabriel’s announcement, the angels’ proclamation, the shepherds, the wise men, even the star and the manger, but Joseph isn’t mentioned a lot.
Joseph was Jesus’ foster-father. We know Joseph’s father was named Jacob, and that Joseph was of the Davidic line. (Mt 1:16). We know Joseph was from Nazareth. (Luke 2:4). From Matthew 1:19 we also know that he was a just man. We know he was a carpenter. (Matthew 13:55). That is all we know. Joseph is not mentioned again after Jesus turned 12 and appeared at the Temple. He was likely dead by the time Jesus was crucified, because Jesus commissioned John for Mary’s care. If Joseph had been alive, Jesus would not have needed to do that.
I posted this painting last year but I’ll do it again with some different thoughts this time. Gari Melchers was an American painter of the end of the last and the beginning of this century. Born of German immigrants and the son of a sculptor father, Melchers’ works are excellent. One of my favorite works of his is The Nativity. Its focus is a bit different than the usual nativity scenes. He painted the scene absent of animals and Wise Men. He painted not an adoring Mary, but a more realistic scene where Mary, exhausted, with dirty rag and bowl of water beside her, leans against her husband’s shoulder, gazing wearily at the Child. The Child in the feeding trough, swaddled, appears to be glowing, or is that just the lantern’s glow that Joseph has set near him? Joseph in turn, looks at his son.
It’s his expression that arrests you.
Joseph’s hands are clasped quietly in his lap. His total focus is on the Babe. What is Joseph thinking? In Matthew 1:20, an angel had come to Joseph in a dream and had confirmed that the child within Mary was conceived by the Spirit. Joseph knew the truth. But how can a man’s mind wrap around that?
Perhaps he is thinking of the revelation that the Savior is at last come to men. But as a baby? Perhaps he is thinking of the grave responsibility of raising the son of God. Perhaps…we don’t know. It’s an interesting moment. It’s not ‘Mary did you know?’ but, ‘Joseph what do you think?’
See below for yourself:
Tomorrow, a bit more on Joseph the carpenter.
I praise the Lord for all the elements of the Incarnation, all the parts of His plan that He perfectly executed.