Joseph and Jesus2It must have been a hard coming to Bethlehem. At that time of the year the weather there can be cold and inclement; not the time to take a heavily pregnant young woman on a long journey. Whether it was poverty or poor planning, the inn keeper’s stables were better than the open air; but not by much. What a time they had had; what a time was to come. Of the birth itself, the first Christians created legends; but we know nothing save what was needful: the young mother and the baby did well.

Where there had been Mary and Joseph, there was now the Holy Family. The man and the woman were brought into a new configuration by the baby; that is the human condition. No more would Joseph labour only for himself and his betrothed; he was a family man now; for this he had left his father and his mother; the same was true for her.

We are told little of him, Joseph, the almost anonymous protector of the sweet Virgin and her precious Baby. What manner of man was he?  We know more than we think. He was the man to whom these burdensome treasures were consigned. We know they were treasures, but for him, he had the task of bringing up a child not his own; he also had to cope with the consequences of Mary’s pregancy and of her choice. She had chosen this path with the aid of her Immaculate Conception; Joseph did what he did full of the burden of original sin.

He did it. He took that heavily-pregnant girl on the long journey and protected her; he found a place to stay; and he took his little family into exile to escape Herod’s soldiers. He was a quietly capable man. He was no hero in his own eyes; that type of man never is. We can doubt anyone else regarded him as such either; it is always so with that type of man.

Joseph worked with his hands. He was a practical man. He was the man to whom people went if they wanted something doing properly. He was not an educated man, but he was a righteous one. He attended synagogue, paid his dues, and got on with the business of life.

He wasn’t impulsive or vengeful. Even when he thought his young fiancée had betrayed him, the worst he was minded to do was put her away privately; most men would have made a great fuss; some would have had her stoned. Once enlightened by God, Joseph did his duty.

It is typical of Joseph that we do not even know when he died. By the time his son began His Ministry, Joseph had been dead for long enough for Jesus to be known as ‘Mary’s son’. Of Mary, never enough; of Joseph, hardly anything.

But there is enough for us to know that anyone to whom God had entrusted such treasures was himself special. He was special in not being special at all. Americans talk about an ‘ordinary Joe’. That, to all intents and purposes was Mary’s Joseph. And for our celebrity-obsessed age, and for those looking for heroes, Joseph of Nazareth has a message: do the simple things right; be the best you can be; and serve your God in humble obedience – and that is enough – and then more.

The Blessings of the Lord be with us all this Christmas.