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Advent: Day Eighteen

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” —Matthew 1:21-25

In this season of Advent, our hearts wait with longing for the coming of our Savior, just as God’s people did in Scripture. We know that, as the time neared for Jesus to arrive, Mary was humbled and joyful to learn she would carry her Savior in her womb. Can you imagine?

But Joseph received it as a blow. It wrecked his life. And then, an angel from heaven disrupted his plans to divorce Mary, so that he wouldn’t miss out on the very purpose for which he was created. Joseph’s calling was a merciful thing, given to him before he had earned it. God never said, “Oh, Joseph, you’re so awesome at being a father… Here’s your calling.” Joseph’s calling was given completely out of grace.

But the truth is, grace is this awesome and free gift that then calls us and empowers us by the Holy Spirit to work for the glory of God.

This gracious calling on Joseph’s life led to work: “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him…” All the evidence shows us that Joseph was a man who worked with his hands to provide for his family, honor his wife, and lead his children—he educated Jesus, the Son of God! He did all of it quietly without fanfare or a “ministry platform.” But, how do we know these things about Joseph?

As an exile in Egypt, a carpenter would have had trouble finding work in a foreign land. But Joseph was called to provide. In order to do this, he would have woken early to work a job and take care of his family. He had to work so that the plan of redemption didn’t blow up on account of baby Jesus starving to death. Yes, God is sovereign and could have fed Jesus in a million different ways, but God gave Jesus a DADDY to feed Him. So Joseph worked.

If Joseph never served as a protector, who willingly risked everything to leave his country and flee in the middle of the night to Egypt, baby Jesus would never have made it to the cross where He atoned for the sins of the world. Baby Jesus would have died under the knife of Herod, who wanted Jesus killed badly enough to take out every baby in the land.

How about leadership? Because Jesus was 100% God, but He was also 100% man, which means He had to learn. Who would have taught Jesus the Old Testament so He could preach and have the great prophecies of Isaiah in his heart? His primary teacher would have been His daddy. Moses had told Jewish men, “You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” So, when Jesus stood up, read from Isaiah 61, and then declared, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” at least part of what Jesus did in that moment goes back to a daddy who was willing to teach Him how to read and know the Bible.

So what does this mean for men in the Church? Joseph shows us that it will cause your hands to ache if you really walk out the calling of God on your life. He reminds us that following Jesus in your calling to be a husband and daddy isn’t something a little boy can do. It takes hard work. Being a Biblical man means spending less time on hobbies and more time helping your family see the glory of God and bringing your neighbors to know Jesus.

The main reason we look at Joseph, is not so that you can try really hard to be like Joseph. The real beauty of Joseph’s life is that, in Joseph’s calling to be a daddy and a husband, we see Jesus and His work to redeem masculinity. So, Jesus is the one who comes and defines what it means to be a man. Jesus is the one who takes our broken masculinity, our violence, and our passivity, and Jesus works in our lives to produce in us this restored, beautiful, image-bearing masculinity that will point to the glory of God. We want to look at Joseph, because Joseph’s calling will lead us back to Jesus. And everything we want to talk about is always related to Jesus.

Meditation: There is a way of worshiping and loving Jesus that doesn’t look like being demonstrably charismatic in your pursuit of worship. The story of Joseph reminds us that it’s just as holy to get up at 6 am every morning for 40 years and go to work so that you can take care of your family. If you do it with the right attitude, maybe that’s just as beautiful as singing a song on Sunday morning. Joseph is this man who points us to participation in the mission of God through the ordinary—through vocation, through being a daddy, through being a husband.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for continually working for Your bride, so that You can present her without spot or blemish. When everything in me would like to check out early, be my reminder that the work is not done. I have a family who needs to be loved and served. I have neighbors who need to be shown the gospel and taught of Your goodness. Thank you that I don’t have to earn Your grace. Let my efforts be for Your glory. Amen.