This is a repost of a bit I wrote last Christmas for the Idea Camp/Orphan Care conference.
It was to be a quiet divorce. A silent separation.
I imagine the first conversation between Mary and Joseph, the one before the angel visited him. Mary coming to him with tears, saying, “I’m pregnant and I swear, I know it’s hard to believe, but this is the chosen one, the Son of God.” Joseph stood contemplating fact or fiction, excuse or explanation. He wondered whether to accept Mary’s word or hunt down the scoundrel — “who did this to my fiance?” Maybe he seethed.
Mary was so tender, so meek and mild, maybe delusional.
With an awkward sort of compassion, Joseph, “being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” It was the best he could do, he thought. The dream-state proclamation of Immaculate Conception changed it all — “the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit,” the angel said. And though it’s not in Scripture, I wonder if the Angel might have said, “and that child needs an daddy here on earth.”
There are so many themes in the Christmas story. Sometimes we get lost in angels, wise men, and mangers, and that’s assuming we make it past the wrapping and trim. But if we dig deeper, if we look closer, there are sub-themes that tie into the larger meta-narrative of scripture.
When Jesus chose to take our skin he first took residence in an unwed mother. He chose the potential of fatherlessness.
Scripture is clear, God will provide for the fatherless. In the Christmas narrative God provided by way of a simple carpenter, a man who had every right to secretly divorce his fiance. But that carpenter transcended occupation and became known as a biblical hero of our faith.
Certainly Christ is the center of this season. But for a season that also celebrates the bit characters like Mary and the wise men, perhaps we should consider the life of Joseph more closely. As a man he was pragmatic, certainly. But as a follower of the living God, he shed his pragmatism in obedience to a call, choosing to be called “daddy” by “God with us.” And in his decision to care for the fatherless, the world received the reconciling grace of God.
If you are looking for a way to engage the fatherless this Christmas season, might I suggest you look into child-sponsorship in Uganda? HELP, a grass-roots non-profit is doing some amazing work. It might be a fantastic family project.