By Tom Walker, Chairman, CTS Board of Trustees; and pastor of Palms Presbyterian Church
As Luke tells the story of the journey to the manger, Mary is center stage and becomes the paradigmatic example of what a faithful follower of God looks like. Her willingness to trust in God’s promises and to live accordingly becomes the model for discipleship in Luke.
Matthew, however, tells this story through the eyes of Joseph. Joseph becomes the example of a faithful disciple, as he hears the command of God and follows it. Yet I wonder if Joseph is not the forgotten person in the Christmas story, almost a tag along for Mary and the baby.
One year at the preschool chapel of a church I serve, we invited the children to act out the Christmas story with each child playing a role. What was fascinating was how Mary always moved front and center, but Joseph always seemed to shyly move at Mary’s side. Joseph seemed to be overshadowed by Mary and only a bit player.
Yet, as Matthew tells the story, Joseph’s hospitality provides a safe space for Mary and for the child in her womb. In some sense, Joseph’s willingness to follow God opens up the rest of the story. For Matthew, the journey starts in hospitality and in particular the hospitality of Joseph.
As we move into Christmas Eve, I wonder how the story of Joseph invites us to see this evening as a story of risky hospitality which provides a safe place for others. This risky hospitality can open up new possibilities for God’s grace to move in the world.
In Joseph’s act of hospitality the journey begins as a story about hosting new opportunities with grace and love. Intriguingly, this is Joseph’s only role in the gospel story. Matthew’s holding up of Joseph, however, suggests that hospitality may be where the journey starts for those of us who would be followers of the baby for whom Joseph provided a safe place.
This post is from Columbia Theological Seminary’s The Journey: 2015 Advent Devotional. Read or share the full 2015 Advent Devotional online at http://issuu.com/columbiatheologicalse…/…/cts_adventdev_2015. You also may download to print after signing in through social media or the Issuu website.
Image: St. Joseph and Jesus by Michael O’Brien.