Every Christmas party has an unsung hero — that one person you can always count on to deliver a delicious dish, a refreshing drink, or a much-needed pack of holiday-themed napkins.
Most of the partygoers will continue to enjoy the merriment of the occasion, without ever knowing about that special someone who swooped in and saved the party at just the right moment.
When we open the New Testament and read the narratives of Jesus’ arrival, most of us are captivated by the message to Mary, the angelic announcements, and the heaven-sent baby in the manger. But there is definitely an unsung hero in the Christmas story who deserves more of our appreciation.
His name is Joseph.
In the early chapters of Matthew and Luke, the Lord God comes to this blue-collar Jewish carpenter in a series of dreams, directing him to be the provider and the protector for both Mary and the infant Jesus.
Why does Joseph deserve more of our admiration?
Why is he one of the unsung heroes of Christmas?
1.) Joseph obeyed God when he wasn’t in control. Joseph must have been devastated when he learned that Mary, his betrothed wife, was pregnant with a child that wasn’t his. Since he wasn’t vindictive by nature, Joseph planned to divorce Mary privately (Matthew 1:19).
But when the Lord’s angel told Joseph that Mary’s conception was caused by the Holy Spirit, and that he should go forward with the marriage, Joseph obeyed (Matthew 1:24). Here was a situation that was totally beyond Joseph’s human ability to control, yet he humbly submitted to the Lord’s direction. Like many biblical heroes, Joseph decided to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
2.) Joseph obeyed God when he couldn’t see the outcome. Every December, millions of American families bake gingerbread and sugar cookies. Most recipes come with detailed instructions and even a picture of the end product. But what makes Joseph so special is how he obeyed God wholeheartedly, even though he couldn’t see the final outcome.
Scripture says that Joseph named Jesus and adopted Him as his legal son (Matthew 1:25), embracing all the pressures and responsibilities of fatherhood.
Joseph didn’t know what the future might hold for his special Son, but he never missed a beat. In future days, Joseph made sure Jesus had a healthy home, a Scripture-saturated education, and hands-on training in the carpentry trade.
The Lord wanted Jesus to have a God-fearing earthly dad, and He got one in Joseph.
3.) Joseph obeyed God when he was surrounded by adversity. Most of us associate Christmas with “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14). But did you know that the Christmas story is also marked by death threats, fear, and flight?
After Jesus was born, the neurotic King Herod wanted Jesus dead, believing this baby was a threat to his throne. How was Jesus spared? Once again, God spoke to Joseph, advising him to take his family and flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-14). After Herod died, God spoke again and told Joseph it was safe to return (Matthew 2:19-20).
The Lord even advised Joseph to settle in Nazareth, a peaceful village, far from danger (Matthew 2:22-23). Jesus was born on a star-lit night, but soon those skies turned dark with adversity and trouble. Thankfully, Joseph’s heart was tender to God’s direction, and His obedient faith gave Jesus a future.
This is definitely the most wonderful time of the year, when we celebrate God’s good news for the entire world: Jesus is the Savior for all who believe (John 3:16). From now until Christmas Day, millions of Americans will join together to celebrate Jesus’ birth with joyful festivities marked by food, friends, and family.
And with every successful Christmas event, there is always one unsung hero making a valuable contribution to the cause.
This is true even when we open the Gospels and read the original Christmas story. By obeying God to the fullest, Joseph made an incredible contribution to this world — and left us with an enduring example to follow.
He will forever be one of the unsung heroes of Christmas.
Pastor Ryan Day is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he has served for 19 years.