Monday, December 2, 2013

A True Builder

As I reflect on the Christmas story I think of how Joseph is usually window dressing.  He operates on the periphery.  He is there but not often the headliner ... he is in the background.  But Joseph has a lot to do with how the Christmas story plays out.

Joseph was from Bethlehem.  It, unlike Nazareth (Mary's hometown), Bethlehem would have been famous.  After all, it was where David was from (thus the reference, City of David).  Rachel died there giving birth to Benjamin.  It was the city where the Book of Ruth was set. Bethlehem was near (about 4 miles) from Ein Karem, Elizabeth's hometown where Mary and Elizabeth exchange excited news in the Gospel of Luke.  And it was probably where Joseph, during Mary's visit to Elizabeth, would have learned that Mary was pregnant and would have had that troubled dream in which the angel tells Joseph to keep his engagement with Mary and become the earthly father of a little boy named Jesus.

Bethlehem, which means "house of bread" was probably a place where bread was baked and taken to Jerusalem, a 2 hour walk away.  Farmers, shepherds and at least one carpenter (Joseph) lived there.  It reminds us of the context of Jesus saying he was the "bread of life."

In my reflections about Joseph's profession, he is a carpenter or tekton.  It is where we get the word architect (arch-tekon would have been a master builder).  There was an arch-tekon in leadership in Jerusalem named Herod.  He built lavish palaces and elaborate places to entertain friends.  His building projects placed a huge tax burden on the people.  Joseph, just a builder, would have worked on small projects, yet his work of being a father to the son of God was a building project worthy of any investment he could make.  I think of the contrast between Joseph and Herod.  I think of how Herod burdened his people with his lavish lifestyle and how Jesus, raised in the simplicity of a carpenter's home, would have had good reason to contrast His kingdom with that of Israel's puppet king saying ... "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."  The story of Joseph is another example of how God tells this amazing story to show us His nature and what He thinks is important.  An obscure town of Nazareth.  The 'little (maybe 1,000 people) town of Bethlehem.  The richness of how God raised up His covenant people.  The birth of Jesus in a stable.  God's building on a simple, honest foundation of two good and faithful people named Mary and Joseph.  God shouting that he didn't need political power, tax revenue, cultural clout, and titles to bring His kingdom into the world.  He just needed two poor but obedient people and a mighty hand directing all of history to the birth of Jesus to a virgin named Mary and a simple man named Joseph.  With God, nothing is impossible.  Randy

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