“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” Luke 2.4
It’s probably not the dream of every aspiring actor or actress to win the Best Supporting Actor award. Great award though it is, it’s not quite the same as the Best Actor award. However, there are probably few, if any, great films, without great supporting actors.
In some ways, Joseph was a supporting actor in the drama of Christmas. Up until this point in Luke’s account of Christ’s birth, Joseph has only been mentioned as being pledged to be married to Mary (Luke 1.27). Joseph might have felt a like a bit part player at the outset. Mary informs him of her pregnancy and he’s – understandably – not convinced by her explanation and decides to quietly divorce her. At that point God intervenes and reveals to him that Mary’s condition is part of the divine plan (Matthew 1.17-19).
In today’s verse, we can begin to see that Joseph plays a far more crucial role in the birth of Jesus than perhaps he had anticipated. It is his ancestry that compels them to go to Bethlehem. In Matthew’s account it is Joseph who is warned in a dream to leave Bethlehem for Egypt because of Herod’s murderous intentions. And it is Joseph whom God instructs to leave Egypt for Nazareth (Matthew 2.13, 19-23).
Mary might have physically brought Christ into the world, but the whole project was a team effort. God works in team. In fact one noted theologian says that we might think of God as a team – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The incarnation is a good reminder of that: the Father sends the Son, the Son becomes flesh, and the Holy Spirit’s power causes Mary to conceive.
Mary and Joseph worked as a team. Joseph might often be depicted as meekly looking on or leading a donkey, but he played a bigger role than that.
God still calls us to work with others to bring His kingdom to earth. For some of us, that might mean having a very prominent, even celebrated role, like Mary. For others, our role is one like Joseph’s. Not so celebrated. Sometimes overlooked. However, even though his role wasn’t very prominent, it was no less significant.
Our significance is found in following the script that God has written for us. Whether we get much credit for it or not, our role is absolutely crucial. After all, what would the Christmas story have looked like if there had been no Joseph? Like great films, God’s great drama needs great supporting actors.