Joseph

Read Matthew 1:18-25

Many times as we share the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus, one character is barely mentioned or overlooked entirely. Joseph, Jesus’s earthly father, is that person. Even the gospel writers make little mention of Joseph. He is only included at the time of the birth. His presence is inferred in Luke 2:41ff when his “parents” are mentioned as the boy Jesus is found in the temple. So we are left to imagine what it must have been like to be the father of the Savior.

Michael McLean attempts to place us in the shoes of Joseph in his song, I Was Not His Father, He Was Mine. Consider Joseph as you listen to this beautiful song. How would you view your situation if you were Joseph? What perspective is provided in the lyrics?

Any Room

During the holidays, people travel a lot and stay in all types of places. Some opt to stay with family. Others choose hotels and motels for accomodations. A few may decide to stay at a bed and breakfast or maybe rent a cabin. On the other side of the equation are the hosts, hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and cabin owners. These all must decide if they have available room for guests.

A key component of the story of Jesus’s birth involves travel and accomodations. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem in response to a decree by the Roman Emperor. When they arrive, they search the city for a place to stay. The question which Joseph probably asked again and again was, “Do you have room for us?” This is a question which the Lord asks each of us still today. “Do you have room for me?” Ponder your response as you listen to Casting Crowns sing Make Room.

Birth Announcement

Read Luke 1:5-20

If you are a Star Wars fan, you know that the first released movie trilogy was toward the middle of the whole story. Since the first three movies were released, we have received the three chapters of the story which were before the original movies. There have been prequels, sequels, individual character focus, and parts in between made into movies. Star Wars is not the only movie franchise which has included prequels and sequels. Some have also had spin-offs featuring characters from the original movie; i.e., the Marvel stories. We are even beginning to watch movies and anticipate these additional ones since it has become so commonplace.

Today’s passage is a necessary prequel to the story of Jesus Christ. We encounter Zechariah, one of God’s faithful priests, and his wife Elizabeth. Much like we will see in the announcement of Jesus’s impending birth, Zechariah is amazed at the angel’s words as he is consumed with fear and doubt. This presents us a precursor of the angelic announcement to Mary and Joseph. Because of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s age, the idea of a child being conceived is almost preposterous, similar to the unlikeliness of Mary becoming pregnant based on her circumstances. The child, John, will always be preparing people for Jesus and it begins with this announcement of  his upcoming birth.

As we continue to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’s birth and look toward the Savior’s return, this story of Zechariah, Elizabeth and John has value in our understanding of Jesus. John is the prequel to Jesus. This is why people were wondering if John was the Messiah. If we overlook John’s story, we lack the preparedness to experience Jesus’s story. Spending time discovering Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son John, helps us to anticipate Jesus’s birth and life.

Family

12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”

“Very well,” he replied.

14 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.

When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”

16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”

17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’”

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.

28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?”

31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.”

33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”

34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.

36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.

Genesis 37:12-36 (NIV)

Families are an interesting aspect of a person’s life. Families come in all sizes. The definition and structure of a family can be as unique as the individual members. Different cultures and periods of time generate varied understandings of family. Recently society has seen shifts in how family is perceived. The next generation is likely to witness other shifts in today’s perceptions. Some families are based upon dependability, reliability, intimacy, and love. In some experiences there is a much looser understanding of family where each member is independent and does not rely upon other members. Competition, envy, jealousy, and discord can exist within a family as easily as trust, support, and encouragement. Most people hope that their family will be the ones to stick by them no matter what but that is not always the experience.

The story of Joseph, Jacob’s son, is a story of family. The passage which we read today is the portion of the story where family is seen as jealous, envious and cruel. All but one of Joseph’s brothers had experienced enough of Joseph’s arrogance and the dreams which he would relay to them. These dreams placed Joseph above his brothers and since it appeared he was already their father’s favorite, this added fuel to the fire. A plot is made to kill Joseph as they see him approach them and the flock. Reuben attempts to rescue Joseph by convincing the brothers to throw Joseph into a cistern instead of killing him. Reuben’s plan prevails until an opportunity to earn some money comes along in the form of an Ishmaelite caravan. The brothers sell Joseph into slavery and they convince Jacob he was mauled to death by an animal by presenting a goat’s blood soaked robe. Instead of experiencing love, support and protection from his brothers, Joseph experienced hatred, jealousy and greed.

Family relationships can be complicated. Just because you share the same blood and possibly the same dwelling does not mean there is harmony, love and support. Sometimes you have to look elsewhere for these things. Even when life can look very bleak, there is a way the Lord can change the picture. With God being the perfect Father and Jesus the perfect brother, you have a source for support and love. God also brings other of God’s children into your life to walk with you during whatever dark times you may be experiencing. Each of us has a second family which surrounds us to either augment our natural family or fill in the gaps.  We also have a Father who is able to take bad situations and create good from them.