During the seasons of Advent and Christmas we hear much about the various characters -- Mary, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, the Baby Jesus in the manger, the angel Gabriel, the shepherds, the sheep, the donkeys and the cattle, even the wise men -- who didn't show up for a couple of years! One person is treated as an extra -- someone that's there and doesn't get much attention. He shows up in church Christmas programs, but he doesn't have any lines. He doesn't bring any gifts to the baby in the manger. He doesn't sing any songs. He doesn't follow a star in the East. He's just there, dressed in a robe and sandals watching everyone around him come and give homage to the newborn King.
We meet that person in today's Gospel. This quiet, humble man is Joseph, the husband of Mary and it is his example of obedience that challenges me today. Today's gospel from Matthew tells us that he was a righteous man. In other words, he was a man that lived for God and he sought to do God's will. Quite simply, he was a devout Jew, who lived each day listening for God's word and choosing to walk in God's ways. And what I've always found so amazing about Joseph is that while all the other characters simply do what God tells them to without question or hesitation, we know that Joseph struggled to obey, for the gospel tells us that his intention was to divorce Mary quietly. Think about how that would have changed the Christmas story!
Put yourself in Joseph's shoes for a moment. You are engaged to a woman who suddenly is pregnant, and you know that you have not had relations with her. Not only is that a problem for your relationship, but she's pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Now that's a problem in society! Just think if that would happen today. I would be a bit skeptical to believe it, yet I take it on faith that that is exactly what happened with Mary. This compassionate and humble man responds with love at a time of crisis as he takes her into his home, cares for her, and travels with her to Bethlehem where she will give birth to Jesus, the Son of God.
I am challenged by the person of Joseph today to respond with compassion, humility and love in times of crisis. It is easy to say Yes to God when things are going alright, but when I face difficulties and struggles, my first response is to do it MY WAY.
God, help me today to respond with love to your call, even during the difficult, challenging times of life.