The once great house of David has been reduced to a stump, if even that. It’s nothing. It’s nowhere. No one is looking for a new king from the house of David anymore at this point. The “City of David” is no longer the great capital of Jerusalem, but the little burg of Bethlehem, where Joseph must travel with his fiancé, who is expecting a Child, but not his own.
Even so, it is from the stump of David that God the Lord now raises up this faithful servant, this quiet, humble, righteous man of faith, St. Joseph. He is a carpenter, and he will make a house and a home, a shelter and protection for the Lord. Not in the way that Solomon once did, with his magnificent temple, but a home on the run, in foreign countries and strange places, under constant threat to the life of his little family — that is where St. Joseph will make a home for the Lord Jesus.
With all of that, it is the Lord who is at work in this way to establish a House for His servant David, and a House for His servant, St. Joseph. And such a House it is, which this man is given.
Do not romanticize the tales at hand. These stories are full of grandeur, peace, and joy, to be sure. But consider that Joseph was a man of flesh and blood like your own, a person much like yourself, living in the world with hopes and dreams, expectations, and plans for his future and his family. Being a carpenter, I fully expect that he was already working on a little place for his new bride and their family, working to lay foundations and to build not only a house but a life together.
But whatever Joseph’s hopes and dreams might have been, they are interrupted and rewritten by the Word of God in extraordinary ways. He is called to circumstances that are by no means easy. And look at what he is given to do. To take this Woman, who is already pregnant; they have not even come together, but here she is, bigger with child every day. He believes the Word that God has spoken to him, but what about everyone else? His family already has a reputation, after all. Tamar. Rahab. Ruth, the Moabite. Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. It would seem that Joseph is now following in the footsteps of his fathers, but not quite in the way that anyone would hope.
And yet, in faith, he takes this Woman to be his own wife. He covers her would-be shame with his honor. And according to the Word of the Lord, he protects her, he guides her and leads her — and the little One within her womb, then in her arms and at her breast, but always with her. Over and over, Joseph is directed to care for “the Child with His Mother,” which is to speak of Christ and His Church. They travel to Bethlehem, and then they must flee to Egypt, and then to Nazareth.
In all of this, Joseph says not a word, none that are recorded in the Scriptures. He is spoken to, he listens, and he obeys. He gets up in the middle of the night, as needs be, and he goes wherever the Word of the Lord directs him. He is the epitome of the strong silent type.
Perhaps you have known men like this. Perhaps your grandfather was a man like this. Maybe you are a man like this. You don’t speak much, but you quietly go about doing whatever the Lord has given you to do. Such a man was Joseph. His solid, steady strength was by faith in the Lord. And his faith was expressed in a ready obedience to the Word of the Lord, whatever it might be, whatever it might require of him and cost him. Thus were St. Joseph’s entire life, his name and reputation, all bound up with St. Mary and her Child.
In this a way, under such trying and humble circumstances, even humiliating circumstances, he gathers up into himself the history and the story of his far more famous namesake and forebears.
He is another Joseph like the Son of Jacob. He is Judah and Israel, fleeing into Egypt in order to save their lives. He is Moses and Joshua, leading the children of Israel back out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. He is David and Solomon, a descendant of that family to whom the Lord had promised the Messiah, though it is not from him but from St. Mary that the Son of David is given.
Here with St. Joseph, himself a son of David, the story of the Exodus unfolds again, in such a way that it is now imprinted upon the life of the little Lord Jesus. The Child goes into Egypt, that God might call Him out of Egypt. He is brought into the Land of Promise, that He might fulfill that promise in His own Body and Life, and bring His people into that Land in and with Himself.
Consider the responsibility that is thus placed into the hands of this quiet and faithful St. Joseph. He is given charge of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. He is entrusted with the duty to protect and provide for the Christ Child, the very Son of God, your Savior, Jesus Christ.
To do all of that is nothing anyone could do or accomplish by any human strength or reason. Joseph does it, in frailty and weakness, by faith in the Word and promises of God. And the Lord is faithful in providing for him. The Lord protect him, and through him protects the Holy Family.
Joseph is a good and faithful husband and father. And he is a good example to those of you who are husbands and fathers, to those who will be husbands and fathers, and really to each of you. He does what God has given him to do within his vocation as a child of God, within his stations in life. And so are you given your own tasks and responsibilities within your own particular stations.
You have no way of knowing the significance and magnitude of the mundane tasks that you are given to carry out in your own place and time. It does not matter. St. Joseph knew the promises of God and the hope of the Resurrection in the Christ, the Seed of the Woman, but he certainly had no way of knowing ahead of time how his own part in the story would play itself out. He acted in faith in doing the work that was set before him by the Word of the Lord, in the confidence that the Lord would accomplish His purposes for him and others. It is much the same for you, as well.
It is the Lord who has called you to care for the people He has placed alongside you and entrusted to your responsibility and oversight. He guides and directs you by His Word and Holy Spirit, and by the messengers of His Word who are sent to you in His Name.
The Lord will accomplish His purposes for you and your family, and for your neighbors, as surely as He did in the case of St. Joseph. Not because of your wisdom and efforts — though He will surely make use of the strengths and abilities He has given you — but all by His grace, by the wisdom of His good and gracious will.
So you live by faith in the promises of God, and you live according to the Word He has spoken. And He remains the Creator and Preserver of your life, the Author and Perfecter of your faith.
Now, in the case of St. Joseph again, in his particular office and station, he is also a kind of pastor. For he is entrusted with this Mother, who is an icon of the Church. He is entrusted with the Christ Child, who is the Savior of the world, that all might become the children of God in Him.
As with any husband and father, Joseph is given to pray with and for his family, to teach them the Word of God, to take them to the Lord’s House, and to exemplify the piety and practice of faith in his words and actions. Think of that. St. Joseph taught the Word and faith of God to the little Lord Jesus. And if you are a husband and father, you are likewise called to care for your wife and children in those same pastoral ways, that they might fear the Lord and walk in His ways by faith.
For all that, in all his faithful service, St. Joseph bore the Cross that was laid upon him, as you also live under the Cross from your Baptism into Christ, even to the end of your life in this world. He was faced with difficulties and hardships, which he bore by faith in the Word and promises of God, under the same Cross to which you are called and pointed. That is the Cross of Christ which was already writ large on the horizon at His birth. The Cross that marks the entire life of our Lord in this fallen world of sin and death. The Cross that is given to you and all of His disciples.
Of course, it is not your Cross, nor the Cross of St. Joseph, but the Cross of Christ that saves you and redeems you and accomplishes a great salvation for the world, a divine rescue from sin, death, the devil, and hell — and from all the Pharaohs and Herods that tyrannize this poor life of labor.
St. Joseph lived by faith in the Word and promise of God in the Cross of Christ, as you are called to live by faith in the Word and promises of God in Holy Baptism. God’s Word will not disappoint you. Your faith and hope in Christ will not be put to shame, no matter how much you are given to suffer on earth. He will do as He has said and promised, for you as He has done for St. Joseph.
Live, then, as St. Joseph did. His sights were set on the Seed of the Woman; the Seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Seed of David, not by Joseph, but by St. Mary. It is this Seed, the promised One, the long awaited Savior, who saves you and all people by His innocent suffering and death.
It is in God’s time, not man’s. It is neither Herod nor Pharaoh who ends this story. It is God who hangs His Son on the Cross. It is God who raises Him again. It is in His Resurrection that you also have life everlasting. It is the Christ Child, conceived and born of Mary, who reigns forever in the House of David, from the throne of His Cross, with love and mercy and forgiveness for you.
Consider that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ also entrusts you with His Son. He places Him into your hands, into your mouth, and into your body, within His Holy Christian Church. And He sets His Son before you in the person of your neighbor, whether that be your wife or husband, your son or daughter, your brother or sister, your coworker, colleague, peer, or student.
In some cases, your neighbor’s life may seem scandalous. And yet, there is Christ, an opportunity for you to love and serve Him, and thereby to give thanks to your God and Father in heaven.
Yet, again, it is not the crosses that you are given to bear, but the Cross of Christ Himself, the Son of Mary, that saves you. It is by His forgiveness of your sins that He strengthens and sustains your faith, so that you are able to live within your vocation and stations in life in love for God and your neighbor. Indeed, it is by His forgiveness of sins that He gives you that life, in and with Himself, and that He now lives in you, even in the face of death. So is the Word of God fulfilled in you.
And so it is that God also now calls you and brings you out of Egypt into Paradise, in and with His Son, as a beloved child by His grace, bearing His Name forever and ever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.