Christmas Characters: Mary & Joseph
By Bryan Crotts
We had several manger scenes in our childhood home. An olive wood set from a trip to Bethlehem was a favorite. Another, from the annual crafts fair in Greensboro, was made of scrap wood and painted to represent the nativity. Different ones of us in the family would rearrange the characters to suit what we thought the configuration should be. I’m guessing none of us pulled out the Psalms, Prophets, and Gospels and followed what details are there regarding who, what, when, and where. I didn’t!
One of my favorite books on the Christmas story is called “The Day Christ Was Born” by author and journalist Jim Bishop. In his fictional account of the details not provided by the New Testament, he writes about Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Jerusalem to Egypt and back home to Nazareth. It tells of landscapes, customs, emotions, stable life, fear of Herod, escape to Egypt, and the joy of new life with a special child. As wonderful a read as it is, it is still educated or informed guessing.
Dr. Luke, Paul’s missionary companion and the compiler of Luke-Acts tells us the most about Mary and Joseph. From him and Matthew we learn the details God wants us to know about Mary and Joseph. We should seek edification in what is divinely revealed and not from speculation, personal preferences, or accumulated lore.
Joseph was a just or righteous man living a typical Hebrew life. He worked and was of age to take a wife and build his own heritage in the Lord his God. He wrestled with and prayed over the moral issues surrounding his young bride-to-be who was with child. He submitted to God’s will as told him by the angel of the Lord. His faith, obedience, and resolve carried his special family through many miles, terrors, and joys. Luke writes that Joseph was the supposed father of Jesus, reminding us of the importance of Jesus not being conceived in sin from our first father, Adam. He instead was brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary. You may think after reading the Christmas story again that Joseph was tugged along for the ride. That seems to be the case, but what a privilege!
We know more about Mary. Her interactions with Gabriel and Elizabeth tell us much of her Bible knowledge, living faith, and willingness to serve the Lord in a mighty way. She was a simple girl exalted by the Almighty. Her words and worship tell of the content of her heart, her longings. Her thoughtfulness along the way of Jesus’ life tell us she never lost sight of God’s special assignment. She is with her son, the Savior, from the womb to the cross, and from the grave to the birth of the church. She sits with the band of followers as they pray and wait for the Holy Spirit.
Following Jesus requires a great commitment. Joseph and Mary had to bear the reproach of serving Christ at a young age. She had to see the reproach of her Son at his public execution. But all who have faith in their son, God’s Son, will enjoy their present position among the multitudes of heaven who cry out, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! (Revelation 7)