December 15, 2019
One small thread in the tapestry God is weaving
In the holy Christmas season Mary, the mother of Jesus, gets most of the attention. She deserves it. Her beautiful faith in God’s plan of salvation shines like a light penetrating the world’s darkness. Her unflinching obedience to God remains the example of the ages for believers.
But let’s not overlook Joseph. He deserves some attention for he also is a model for Christ followers. His situation is unique but his opportunity to obey God is universal. The eternal destiny of every person is caught up in one’s willingness to trust and obey God.
In his Gospel, Matthew tells us that Joseph received his instructions from an angel in a dream. Lesser men might have dismissed the advice. Joseph, however, obeyed the angel, doing what he believed God wanted him to do. He gave up his plan to end his commitment to Mary; instead he brought her into his home and cared for her.
Our own plans involve pride. We believe we know what is best. We need no one’s counsel, much less the counsel of God. We want to be able to say, “I did it my way.” So God tests our faith every time he says, “Do it my way, not your way. My way is best, even though you may not understand it.”
We should not expect Joseph is comprehend how this infant would “save his people from their sins.” Nevertheless, he follows instructions and names the baby Jesus, thus embracing his role in the miraculous birth. Simply put, he obeyed God.
Few of us comprehend all that God is doing in the events of our lives. God does not require that we understand. He does require obedience. He required it of Joseph and he requires it of us today. Joseph was an ordinary man called to serve God. God still calls ordinary people to do what he asks them to do. And each of us must decide whether we will live life God’s way or our way.
The flight from Bethlehem into Egypt is another example of Joseph’s obedience. Once again his instructions come from an angel in a dream. Joseph must act quickly to save Jesus from death at the hands of wicked Herod the Great. Losing no time, Joseph leaves in the night and escorts his little family to safety in Egypt.
After some time had passed, the angel is busy again, instructing Joseph to take Mary and Jesus into Israel. Those who wished to kill Jesus are now dead. So Joseph carries out his orders, taking Mary and Jesus back to their home in Nazareth.
The scriptures tell us little of what transpired during Jesus’ childhood. We may assume that Mary and Joseph taught Jesus, and their other children, how to love and honor God as they grew up in the humble home of a carpenter. We can imagine Jesus learning patience in the skill of carpentry as he assisted in constructing fine oxen yokes.
Joseph was not a prominent man. He was an ordinary man. This should get our attention for the Bible shows us that God chooses common people to do his will. He calls people in different ways. Sometimes he has used angels, sometimes dreams. And what He once did, he can do again, if he chooses. But his methods are limitless. He can reach the heart of a man or a woman by a thousand stairways.
Joseph is an example of how we can respond to God. God may speak to us in many ways: through the scriptures, a sermon, circumstances, the words of a trusted friend or the Inner Voice. When he speaks, we can listen and obey. What he asks of us are usually not impressive things but little things, simple things. We need not grasp “the big picture.” It will be enough simply to embrace the tasks at hand and do what He asks us to do. To use the words of Mother Teresa, we can do “small things with great love.” When we do that, not caring who gets the credit, God’s work is done in God’s way to God’s glory.
God used the ordinary man Joseph to help the world see Jesus. In these days God wants to use our quiet, humble deeds of love and kindness to show Jesus to the world. People can see Jesus in our ordinary, everyday lives, when we do our best to follow the directions God has given us for living. They will see Jesus when we forgive one another, when we are kind rather than mean, and when we share what we have with the least of our brethren.
No task is small in the eyes of God. No duty God assigns is insignificant. In the grand scheme of things, God will take the obedience of ordinary people and knit it into something beautiful. My obedience, your obedience, can become one small thread in the exquisite tapestry God is weaving with our lives. Join me then in giving thanks for Joseph’s example.
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