“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”” Matthew 1:18-21
In a remarkable story filled with unremarkable people Joseph stands out – or rather doesn’t. Joseph was just a guy, worked with his hands, punched his clock, paid his taxes, paid his dues in life. Maybe he is where the expression Regular Joe comes from – someone who takes his place in near anonymity and obscurity while maintaining a solid, middle-of-the-road and just existence. He could be me, he could be you, he probably is most of us. Joseph was just… Joseph.
As life comes at us most of us tend to do the right thing – do unto others, share, say please and thank you, don’t take what isn’t ours, render random acts of kindness. Most of us would not knowingly cause harm to another person. Oh, we have our moments of road rage and jealousy and envy. But all told the mass of people in your circle will do the right thing. And then there are those that went to the School for Scoundrels. These folks will stop at nothing to gain advantage, to take all they can get, to win at everything at any cost. And those who subscribe to the former are flabbergasted at those who strive towards the latter – “here I am, doing right, and they come out ahead.” It’s called self-justification and that is the type of just that was Joseph. Yes he did right. Yes he observed his religious traditions. Yes he was a good man. And it all made him just in his own eyes.
Slow down there cowboy. I’m not dissing Joseph. Not one bit. Let’s give him full credit. Joseph was just… a good guy. A hard worker. Moral and upright. Cream of the crop, salt of the earth, a pillar in society. You need something? See Joe. Joseph is that neighbor guy who has the right tools and the right knowledge to fix your problem. And will. Because Joseph is just… a good sam. And I think God chose him because he represents Everyman in all ages. And now you are beaming with pride because you do right, you do good, you helped that little old lady across the street. You are just, too.
And then it’s Christmas. And it turns out the whole theme of this amazing event is that being just just didn’t cut it. Listen to what the angel told Joseph:
“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Whoa Nelly. Joseph was just. These must be the sins, the unjustnesses, the wrongs, the evil that others do. But not at all. God was out to fix the Big Problem. And it affects us all, big and small, rich and poor, white and black, Jew and Gentile. Just and unjust. We all are in the same boat, heading down the wrong river. And I think that God chose Joseph to amplify the point. We all need the gift that was being offered. We all need the fix, the remedy, the absolution. Because while Joseph may have imagined himself just it turns out none of us are.
We know Joseph got it because he just did it. He listened to what he was told, pulled up his blue-collar work-ethic bootstraps, and followed the instructions of the angel. Yeah, his fiancé was preggers and it wasn’t his baby. Yeah he had to slog through Palestine in the winter with his sweetheart Mary perched on a donkey. Yeah there was no room in the inn. But he did it. He just did it – and long before Nike told us to.
And why? Because Joseph was just. But he knew it wasn’t enough. And as hard as he had worked, as good as he had been, as many good deeds as he had performed, he was coming up short – there would be coal in his stocking after all. And Joseph knew that the angel was right, that Mary carried the answer in her womb. You see Joseph was just enough to know he needed more. And that is where a true just nature shines. Because they don’t teach that in the School for Scoundrels, and only a man who thinks he is just, who strives for justice, who lives to be just, will ever understand that he needs more.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the song tells us. But let’s remember why. And in all our gift giving and cookie making and tree trimming and carol singing and punch drinking we must know that we need more than we can ever have, more than we can ever do, more than we will ever imagine to be just.
Because Joseph was just.
Just enough to know he wasn’t just enough.