In the festive season surrounding the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, there are two individuals that are the subjects of much exaltation. Obviously, baby Jesus would be the first one; and second, his Mother Mary. Both are certainly worthy of much celebration and in the case of Jesus as the only begotten son of God, he is worthy of our praise. But, perhaps the unsung hero that is often overlooked is Joseph, Mary’s husband and the natural, yet not biological Father of Jesus.
According to Jewish custom, Joseph was engaged to Mary and which customarily was one year in duration. Sometime during this period of engagement, and angel appeared to Joseph and told him that his soon to be wife was pregnant and he was not the father. In fact, Mary had been impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, Joseph was instructed to continue with his plans to marry Mary.
The first thing that comes to mind as I meditate upon this incredible scenario is the manner of man that Joseph was. He was undoubtedly a man of impeccable character. In my book, Character the Path that God Walks, I define character as a distinctive mark or impression in the innermost part of a person that is expressed in that person’s external behavior. As I meditated upon the external behavior of this unusual man, I was drawn to the way that God described him in Matthew 1:18. The Bible says that Joseph was a “just” man. This word “just” means “righteous”. God says Joseph was a righteous man, and that is the distinct character trait that sets Joseph apart as a man of impeccable character.
As a matter of fact, Joseph’s impeccable character, quite similar to the impeccable character of Mary, enabled him to be the perfect candidate to be the earthly father of Jesus Christ. Let’s take a look at a few key indicators of the impeccable character traits in the life of Joseph:
- Joseph was a just (righteous) man. This means that Joseph was a man that had established a way of life that consistently demonstrated “right thoughts, right behavior, right motives, and right morals, consistent with God’s standards.
- Joseph was “not willing to make her a public example”. According to Jewish law and custom, Joseph had every right to accuse his wife of adultery and publically bring her before the legal authorities and petition for a divorce. But Joseph’s righteous character caused him to desire to take the moral high road and divorce her privately, protecting her honor instead of validating his own honor.
- While meditating on what he should do, an angel of the Lord appeared to him while he slept and encouraged him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife because the child she was carrying was of the Holy Ghost and he was indeed the Messiah, the savior of the world. When he awakened from sleep, he did as the Lord instructed him and took Mary as his wife.
- Another magnificent demonstration of the character of Joseph was he a seldom mentioned character test: Joseph married his bride, but never consummated the marriage until after Jesus was born. Amazing! The Bible says; “he knew her not until she had brought forth her first born son.” What an admirable display of discipline, obedience, and honor.
- Finally, as an act of obedience and submission to the will of God, Joseph named his son, God’s son, what God instructed him to name him: Jesus.
Every person that lives the average span of life will be faced with many character tests. Some major, some seemingly minor. How we handle the character tests that we face will often times determine our quality of life, and sometimes, our destiny. Joseph was faced with the biggest character test of his life. And he passed the test.
In the midst of this holiday season, may we pause to reflect upon the character tests that we may be facing presently. Can we love someone that may be difficult to love? Can we give purely for the joy of giving, even if we don’t receive in return? Can we accept a Savior that gave his life so that we might live abundantly in this life and the life to come? Take a page from the life of Joseph. Stand up and embrace your character test(s) and enjoy your Christmas in righteous living. Merry Christmas, and may you have a prosperous New Year!