Once again the holiday season is upon us and many approach it with trepidation, uncertainty and disillusionment. 

As we look around, we are frequently reminded of what we don’t have relationally and materially.  Christmas movies, displays, and advertisements depict happy families with an abundance of “stuff.”  For many, this is not the case.

The most important contributing factor to Christmas-related depression is disappointment.  Too many expectations.  Too much hope for magic that doesn’t deliver.

— Jerry Jenkins, author Left Behind

It is often difficult to stay focused on the true essence and meaning of Christmas amidst the commercial distractions that we face.

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess (Hebrews 3:1).

I am determined this season to focus on those who had fixed their thoughts on Jesus that first Christmas—Joseph and Mary.  Who were they?  How did they feel as they approached the birth of Jesus?  How can I learn from them?

Joseph

Joseph is one of the most recognized characters in the Bible, yet we know so little about the man whom God chose to rear his only son, Jesus. 

He was described as being a righteous, just, and good man for not wanting to publicly disgrace his fiancée Mary at the news she was pregnant (Matthew 1:19).  Joseph would have been justified to feel hurt, disappointed or confused (and he may have been), however we are only told he did not want to humiliate her, which is a credit to his strong character.

Joseph was obedient to an angel of the Lord who appeared to him in a dream telling him not to be afraid to wed Mary.  He did not question the validity of his dream.  He did not discount it as being insignificant.  He did not look for an explanation.

When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord’s angel had told him to do.  Joseph took Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:24).

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph three more times in Scripture (Matthew 2), directing him to take Mary and Jesus to another place in order to flee danger.  Each time, Joseph obeyed without delay, debate, frustration or reservation. 

Joseph’s strict observance to the traditions and customs of his period reinforced the kind of man Joseph was.

  • He followed the Law of Moses by presenting Jesus to the Lord.  (Luke 2:22)
  • He offered sacrifices as the law of the Lord says.  (Luke 2:23)
  • He had done everything the law of the Lord commanded.  (Luke 2:39)
  • He observed the Passover Feast each year.  (Luke 2:41)

Knowing these things about Joseph, we can deduce he was not only a pious man, but also a good father to Jesus.  Joseph raised him in a godly way under godly principles and taught Jesus real-life skills like carpentry and fishing.

Joseph didn’t seem very different than someone you would meet at church.  He loved Jesus and did everything in his earthly power to protect him.  So why did God choose Joseph to help raise His Son?  He knew Joseph would be obedient and his thoughts would be fixed on Jesus.

Mary

Besides Jesus, Mary is one of the most lauded people in the Bible.  Little is known about her childhood or her family, other than she was of the tribe of Judah and had a relative, Elizabeth.  Our first introduction to Mary came as she was a virgin engaged to be married to Joseph (Luke 1:27).