Luke 2:1-20 (NRSV)
Chapter 2In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. Verse 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Verse 3All went to their own towns to be registered. Verse 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. Verse 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. Verse 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. Verse 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Verse 8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Verse 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Verse 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: Verse 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. Verse 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." Verse 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Verse 14"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" Verse 15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." Verse 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. Verse 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; Verse 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Verse 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. Verse 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
One overlooked figure in this incredible story is Joseph. Who was this amazing man who took his pregnant fiancée—most likely under a cloud of shame—to be counted in the emperor’s census? Although Jesus preached that his Father was God in heaven (see, for example, John 20:17), it should not be forgotten that without his earthly father, Joseph, the child Jesus might not have survived at all. What would Mary have done if Joseph did not commit himself to her? As a single young mother, she would have been completely lost in the ancient society of Nazareth. Although Jesus is clearly the reason for the season, his earthly father Joseph deserves to stand at the center of the Christmas story for just a moment or two. His silence, his humbleness, remind us that humans are but one among a myriad of creatures for whom God becomes incarnate.
Dear God, help us to honor the private struggles and joys of the fathers in this world who have put their children first. Thank you for Joseph who kept our Savior alive when Jesus was but a small child, and for showing us what it means to be dedicated to one’s family and children. In your Holy Spirit we pray, Amen.