This passage speaks volumes about the sort of man Joseph was. For starters, his initial reaction to Mary’s pregnancy is unusual. Many men in this position would have been loud in their outrage and interested in public vengeance and vindication. Joseph’s reaction is restrained, moderate, firm in purpose, and very kind.
Then he has his dream, and changes his course of action on the strength of it. This indicates both that he wants to believe Mary, whom he clearly loves and respects deeply, and that he is in the habit of listening to God. People who listen to God and act on what they hear become practised at discerning and noticing the Spirit’s voice. People in the habit of ignoring and overriding the whisper of the Spirit, taking refuge in busyness and distraction, find their faith and spiritual discernment growing dull and dim and tired.
Joseph listens and takes action – but he does not speak. He passes through the pages of the Gospels without uttering a single word. We may learn from this the simple lesson that he was a quiet, modest man, but also the greater lesson that silence nurtures the word. As Jesus, the Word of God, was nurtured and protected by Joseph, so in our own lives will silence nourish and shelter our words towards graceful maturity.
The example of Joseph encourages us to see how moderation, kindness, quietness, and restraint save us from the regrets and false starts of impetuosity.
Joseph was a carpenter, working responsibly at an honest trade. God entrusted to his care the infant Jesus, to grow to maturity in the shelter of his home and under his authority. Can you think of ways in which your home and family life are nurturing the growth of Christ in your midst? Or can you think of some small changes you could make to better nurture the word of life in your household?
Can you think of examples of quiet, gentle people who have made a difference in your life, or in your church community? What would you say was their particular gift and contribution?
Do you find it easy to be quiet, or are you someone who needs to think aloud? In a conversation, do you find it easy to listen, or do you tend to find yourself waiting impatiently to share your thoughts? How do you (or might you) nurture quietness and thoughtfulness in your own life?
O God who sees and knows us all, you chose Joseph to be the man who would care for Mary and the baby Jesus, protecting them from persecution, and ordering their family life according to the ways of peace. As we, inspired by Joseph’s example, seek to align our own homes with the gentle restraint and self-discipline of your kingdom, grant us strength and perseverance so that Christ may grow to maturity in the innermost sanctuary of our hearts and souls. For we ask it in Jesus’ holy name; Amen.