Yes, Mary figures much larger than Joseph in the nativity story from Luke. But in the gospel of Matthew, Joseph has a bigger role. As the story unfolds in Matthew, Jospeh appears to be in the dilemma of being engaged to someone who is pregnant by another man. The idea here is that the father of the child is God/the Holy Spirit. There is speculation that if Mary was pregnant by another man it could have been the result of rape by a Roman soldier stationed nearby while a large Roman building project was underway.
In any case, Joseph is presented as being in a fix. And then he has a dream and in the dream he is told to take Mary as his wife, anyway, and not to divorce her, even quietly. And Joseph follows the instruction he is given in the dream.
Also in Matthew, after Jesus’ birth, Joseph is told in a dream to take his family and seek asylum in Egypt.
Two dreams are given to Joseph that guide his actions as a husband and father. And he follows through on what he is advised in the dreams. Dreams are a way of moving the story along and giving God a channel for communicating with characters in the story. Joseph’s dreams give him God’s direction.
Well, maybe we are not going to be given dreams that lay out our course of action so directly, but surely we are being offered the guidance that we need for the living of our days. Surely we are being guided and directed in our behavior and our choices. But what are we choosing to listen to? What are we choosing to give power over our thinking and actions? Do we let past pain control us? Do we let our hurt feelings dictate our behavior? Do we follow the dictates of anger? Is vengeance our guide? Or greed?
Joseph chose to listen to love. He chose to trust forgiveness and reconciliation over what was legally permissible. He chose to give up his home and livelihood to protect his family. The way of love was difficult and costly for Joseph. He was setting a good example for Jesus who would later choose to give up his life.
Maybe in addition to thinking about what we are doing for others for Christmas and what gifts we are giving, we could consider what we are giving up, for love.
Prayer Many, many people find themselves in difficult situations. Situations where trust is needed. Situations where forgiveness is needed. Situations where healing is needed. We know what that is like. May we look for the path of love that is life-giving. Even when it is difficult. Amen.