As we come again to another Christmas celebration I’ve been reading and thinking about Joseph. During this week many of us will focus on the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, Mary, and the baby Jesus. Most of us will include Joseph, but he doesn’t seem to get the attention the others get. Last week I came across an article about Joseph by author and Pastor Acher Niyonizigiye that shed a lot of light on this important Christmas character. Here are some of his observations and thoughts on Joseph (in quotes) and mine as well.

“We don’t know a lot about Joseph. He is one of the biblical characters of whom very little is said. Not a political leader or a great prophet, his name would be absent from the Bible had he not been the guardian of the Messiah.”

“It is most likely that the real Joseph was an average Jewish young man, with some religious education. The Bible implies Joseph was a very ordinary man from an ordinary place, a village man who was known through his profession. People thought of him as the carpenter (Matthew 13:55).”

“While the Jewish culture valued menial labor, the reality was totally different with the Romans. From a Roman perspective, carpentry was a slave’s profession. So Joseph was far from being among the people with high status.”

“In strongly patriarchal cultures, men usually expect to provide well for their families, sometimes with a good dose of emotional detachment from their wives, and they often expect their own plans to be the plans that direct the families.”

“Joseph wasn’t like that. We see that most clearly in his treatment of Mary. He knew she deserved loved and protection. Even before he received God’s message about Jesus, Joseph demonstrated love for Mary and his commitment to protect her dignity. Joseph’s behavior portrays genuine masculinity and Bible-certified righteousness.”

Matthew does not give the detail that Luke does, but he does center his focus on Joseph. In Matthew 1:18 we learn that Mary was “found” to be with child before they came together (in marriage). This would suggest that Mary had been unfaithful to Joseph in the betrothal period, but Matthew confirms for us what Mary learned from Gabriel, that the child Mary carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Since Joseph doesn’t have any details about Mary’s pregnancy, he assumes she has been unfaithful. But this godly man decides not to make a spectacle of Mary and publicly shame her– he decides to divorce her quietly. As Joseph considered all of this, he fell asleep and “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:21 and 22).

In Matthew’s account we are also told that after the angel spoke to Joseph in a dream, he woke up and immediately resolved to do as the angel instructed. Joseph immediately took Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:24). This shows both the character and commitment of Joseph to the Law and to Mary.

Matthew’s gospel does not go into detail about the birth of Christ, but it does tell us that Joseph “knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” Both Mary and Joseph immediately obeyed the Lord’s command and welcomed Jesus, their Messiah into the world.

Joseph may not get the attention others get in the Christmas accounts, but he is one of the heroes. He sets an example and challenge for us still today as we celebrate again the birth of Jesus.

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Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay


This afternoon I read an article that reminded me of so much of my experience growing up in the Bible Belt. The title of the article, I Survived (Because Of) Bible Belt Religion, got my attention; but at first reading the sub-title irritated me: Evangelical leaders who make a great show of their dislike for “Bible Belt Religion” really just dislike the people of the Bible Belt.

Having read the entire article I was not irritated at all, but was affirmed and encouraged. I was also grateful that I grew up where I did and was an active and committed member of my church from the age of 11 until I left home to attend Cincinnati Bible College.

As a pastor (or minister) I spent 10 years in the Philadelphia area and 30 years in Southern California. I thoroughly enjoyed my time both on the east coast as well as the west coast. Neither were exactly like the Bible Belt, but in both churches we believed, taught, learned, applied, and tried to live what the Bible said like we did in the Bible Belt.

Regardless of where you grew up, I hope you have many good memories of those years. Thankfully our country has a lot of variety in so many ways.

Here is the link to the article if would like to read it, especially if you grew up in the Bible Belt:

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A few days ago I was reading about Clint Eastwood’s many films and how people ranked them. I was somewhat surprised that the movie chosen as his best was Unforgiven. I’ve seen the movie, but have never completely understood the meaning of the title. What I do know is that unforgiven is a word I hope never applies to me.

In a Bible study I lead we recently covered Psalm 103 as we focused on the Thanksgiving holiday. In verses 10-12 David reminds us of God’s grace in terms of our sin,

10 He does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

To me, these three verses are some of the most comforting, assuring, and encouraging words in all the Bible. In digging into Psalm 103 I came across a challenge from a sermon on these verses by Cecil Taylor many of us may want to accept:

Think back to the day when sin weighed heavy on your soul and shame made you hope no one ever found out what you had done. Remember the hot tears that spilled down your cheeks as you begged God for forgiveness. Remember how swift his coming, how loving his touch, how clean your soul when he washed away your sin. Stand up with David and praise God for sin forgiven and gone.

Several months ago in our worship I used part of a blog post by Tim Challies to prepare our congregation to share in the Lord’s Supper. The title of Challies blog asks the question, “Why should we remember what God forgets?” Obviously Challies is reminding his readers that God has not only forgiven us, He also has forgotten our sins.

Following our worship time a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor asked me to send him a copy of the blog. He told me he had clients who would benefit from it. Since Challies’ words were so powerful for me, I wasn’t surprised he thought it would be useful for others.

Here is the link to Challies’ post if you are interested in reading it:


Join me in thanking and praising God that as Christians we are forgiven and we don’t need to remember what God forgets.

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