I’m a big sports fan, and enjoy watching some of the well-produced documentaries that tell us stories of some of sports greatest athletes and their achievements. These stories are often so compelling because of the obstacles that many athletes had to overcome to do great things in the end. In almost every case, there was some special person the athlete met along the way that made a big difference, and changed the course of the athlete’s future, a person who we would not know anything about, apart from this story – the unsung hero.
As the anticipation builds toward the final Sunday in Advent, and to the coming Lord’s nativity, we get to meet a true unsung hero of Jesus’s childhood. We know him as Joseph of Nazareth, but we really know so little about the man who was called to be the earthly father of Jesus. We cannot put together a documentary about Joseph’s role in Jesus life, but what we do know of Joseph from scripture gives us a good idea.
Joseph was a humble man, living in Nazareth, a rather remote and nondescript place at the time. He was a skilled tradesman and laborer, trained in carpentry, something he likely passed on to Jesus, as well as his other children. He was engaged to marry a young woman of the village named Mary and I’m sure was banking on living a simple provincial life without anything more than ordinary drama.
Mary, however, ends up pregnant, and Joseph cannot be the father. We forget that in those days, it would have been a vile offense for a man to be dishonored in this way by a woman to whom he was betrothed. It would have been easy and customary for Joseph to have disclaimed Mary and her baby, and the punishment for Mary’s apparent indiscretion would have been ostracism, and perhaps even death.
Scripture does not tell us this, but I’m sure Joseph was hurt by this unexpected news. Yet, Joseph’s love for Mary would not allow him to turn her out to suffer the unjust consequences of public humiliation. His faith inspired him instead to stand up to the customs of patriarchy, remain faithful to Mary and to foster their special child and protect them from those who would do harm to them.
This took a great deal of courage, but Joseph, inspired by God, chose love over custom, chose grace over laws, chose life over death, and is remembered for being the humble steward of a miracle. Joseph is a true unsung hero of the faith and an example of steadfastness under adversity, and a witness to the power that love has to change the course of history.
Who are the unsung heroes in your life?
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Devotions for the week of December 18, 2016
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.