The silent hero of Christmas

by Linzy Slayden

A worried mother phoned the church office on the afternoon of the annual Sunday school Christmas program. She was so sorry to say that her son, who was playing the role of Joseph in the nativity scene, had a cold and was in bed on doctor’s orders. “Well, it’s too late to get another Joseph now,” the teacher said, “we’ll just write him out of the script.” They did, and the sad thing is, no one missed him.

Joseph really is the forgotten man at the manger. In a well-known hymnbook containing 11 Christmas carols, there was not one reference to Joseph in their 41 verses. We sing of the virgin mother and child, angels from the realms of glory, shepherds in the fields, and kings from the ori­ent, but nothing of Joseph. We know he was a common man who did not add much excitement to the scene, but to me, Joseph is the silent hero of Christmas.

We do know he was a devout man of faith in and obedience to God. Scripture doesn’t record any words from the mouth of Joseph, but what we know of his life speaks volumes.

The first glimpse we have is in Matthew 1:19 when he discovers Mary’s pregnant condition. He had no desire to publicly humiliate her so he was going to sever their relationship privately. There is no angry outburst and no irrational impulse. Before jumping into action, he thinks about what he should do. While he is thinking, the angel speaks to him. Joseph repeatedly exhibits a sensitivity and obedience to God’s directions. When God revealed His eternal purpose, Joseph gladly became Mary’s husband.

Several passages describe Joseph getting out of bed and immediately following the instructions given to him by God. There was no room for question or debate in Joseph’s obedient faith.

Since no words of Joseph are left to us, it is easy to overlook the qual­ity of his life as an example. There are very few messages about such a cen­tral figure in the Christmas account. And little is said regarding his influ­ence in the life of and growth of the Lord.

While we proclaim the humanity of Christ we often tiptoe around it. Yet if we believe that Christ was fully human, we must believe that His human father had an impact on his development. Through the account of young Jesus at the Temple we find both Mary and Joseph involved in the spiritual training of their son. Joseph led his family in being faithful to God’s house.

By heritage, Joseph was in the royal line of David. The Scripture tells us that Joseph was known in the community as a just man. Our legacy from Joseph is not what he said but in what he did. His life is the most vocal part about him.

He may be described as ordinary to some, but I am so glad God cares about ordinary people. One of the gifts of Christmas is to be reminded that with God everybody is special.