Scripture: Luke 2:52
I know from personal experience that “expectant” fathers often feel like outsiders looking in: While we would do anything for this precious new life growing inside our wives’ bodies, we’re helpless. The process of pregnancy and childbirth is completely beyond our control. And during those months of pregnancy, we can only experience the child in the most indirect way—through ultrasounds and sonograms, for example, or when the baby is so large that we can feel it kick. Needless to say, we expectant fathers don’t even get parties thrown for us!
I know, I know: try passing a watermelon through a fire hose, and then let’s talk about parties!
The point is that Joseph felt all these feelings and more, except he was even more of an outsider: he knew that the child conceived in Mary’s womb wasn’t his, at least until he could adopt the child.
Why did God choose Joseph to the adoptive father of the Son of God?
Before we answer that, let’s think through the mystery of the incarnation: Jesus didn’t emerge from the womb on that first Christmas endowed with superhuman knowledge, power, and wisdom, fully equipped from birth to be Messiah and Son of God. On the contrary, after the 12-year-old Jesus visits the temple in Jerusalem, Luke writes that Jesus “increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor” (Luke 2:52). While he was without sin, Jesus grew physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
(That’s why I never understood the line in “Away in the Manger” about “the little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” He was as helpless and vulnerable as any baby, needing the love and care of his parents. Of course Jesus cried! Why wouldn’t he cry?)
The point is, Jesus grew into the person that he did in part because of Joseph—his love, his example, his instruction, his discipline. He wasn’t simply a chip off the block because he was like his heavenly Father, but also because he was like his earthly father.
In fact, Jesus envisioned God as a loving Father (think of the parable of the Prodigal Son, for instance) in part because of his experience of Joseph as a loving father.
To say the least, it challenges me to think more soberly about my role as a human father.
Every Advent and Christmas season, preachers preach about Joseph as an example of discipleship—how he answered the call to be a disciple of Jesus. But he was also called to be a father, a parent. He answered that call, too.
If you’re a parent, do you believe that, like Joseph, God chose you to be the mother or father to your own kids? Pray that you, like Joseph, will teach your children who their heavenly Father is through your own words and example. If you believe there are areas in your parenting that need improvement, pray for the grace to change.