Joseph: silent, steady, strong and faithful

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Home > Archbishop > Frontpage Message > Joseph: silent, steady, strong and faithful

The Christmas story draws us into the joys and struggles of a young family. They find themselves away from their home, without the support of family or friends, with nowhere to stay, expecting the imminent arrival of a baby. They were poor by material standards, owning few possessions. They eventually find a barn where their child could be born. His first bed was a feed lot. Instead of family it was local shepherds who came to share in the joy of this couple at the birth of their first child.

There is a strange and attractive beauty in the scene of the birth of Jesus. The simplicity, poverty and fragility of this young couple and their first born child attracts us. Children, in particular, are drawn to the Christmas crib in wonder. The scene engages their imagination, especially when they are told that this is how the Son of God came among us.

One figure who is often overlooked in the Christmas story is that of St Joseph. He is there at the heart of this great event and his presence is both silent and yet strong. How was he managing all that was happening to him and around him?

Firstly, the child was not his own. Even his respectful effort to quietly close off the engagement was changed when he received a divine message to take Mary as his wife. He did so. No doubt he was aware that whatever his future hopes for his life may have been, from now on he is being drawn into a drama beyond his control. He took his wife to Bethlehem to meet his census obligations. He must have been embarrassed at his inability to ensure that the child was born in proper conditions. He stood there in the background, knowing that he was to play a support role in events that were outside his control. He had no idea when all this would lead. Later he would be forced to take the child and mother and flee to Egypt as a refugee when he learnt that they were under threat. His destiny was tied to this child.

In all this he patiently and faithfully assumed his duties as husband and father. He faithfully embraced his responsibilities, laying aside his own hopes and expectations. He surrendered his own future and oriented his life around responsibilities now thrust on him.

St Joseph is a model of the role of being a good husband and father. He gave all his attention to the needs of the family. He was protector and provider. His attention was on their wellbeing. St Joseph in his silent witness, standing quietly at the back of the stable, presents an enduring image of the role of husband and father, silent, steady, strong and faithful.

Archbishop Julian Porteous