How Joseph Saved Christmas

Joseph Kept Jesus Safe by Obeying God's Warnings in Dreams

How Joseph the Carpenter Saved Christmas
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Joseph, a carpenter and foster father of Jesus Christ, rescued not only the first Christmas, but the future celebrations of Christmas for all time.

Joseph's bravery is recorded in the gospel of Matthew, where, in the ESV Bible, he is called "a just man." In other versions he is described as "faithful to the law" or "righteous." This was a rare compliment indeed, applied to only a few men: Noah, Lot, Abraham, and Jesus himself.

How Did Joseph the Carpenter Save Christmas?

Joseph's righteousness presented him with a dilemma. He and Mary were betrothed, the second step in the Jewish marriage process following engagement. Betrothal was a legally binding contract that lasted about a year. During that time, the man and woman lived apart, with no sexual contact.

Then Joseph learned Mary was pregnant. As a law-abiding Jew, what should he do? What could he do?

God Instructs Joseph in a Dream

In the Old Testament, the law was clear: A virgin and a man who defiled her were to be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:23-24).

Conditions seem to have changed by the time of Joseph. He loved Mary, but knowing he was not the father of the child, he decided to divorce her quietly. The text says he did not wish to put her to shame, but in a small village like Nazareth, Mary could not have kept the pregnancy and birth secret. She would have been an unwed mother, a great disgrace in those times.

That's when God stepped in again:

But after he (Joseph) had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21, NIV)

When Joseph woke from the dream, his path was clear. He would go through with the marriage and adopt the child as his son.

Luke's gospel adds that a Roman census required Joseph to return to Bethlehem, the town of his birth, to register. Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable there, fulfilling yet another of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah's birthplace.

Wise Men Obey a Dream Too

Time passed, perhaps as much as two years, before the Magi came to visit the Christ child. They stopped in Jerusalem first to inquire of King Herod. In his later years, Herod had become so jealous over his throne that he had murdered three of his sons and his favorite wife.

Herod discovered from the Wise Men when the star leading them had first appeared, giving him the approximate time of Jesus' birth. Then he sent them on their way, telling them to give him the location of the child on their way home, so he could pay homage to him too.

The star led the Magi directly to the house in Bethlehem where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were living. There they worshiped the child, giving him gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Yet another dream came, warning the Magi not to return to Herod. They went back to their own countries by another way.

This delay in Herod getting the information proved crucial.

Joseph Saves Future Christmases

After the Magi left, God sent another dream to Joseph. In that dream, an angel warned him:

“Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (Matthew 2:13, NIV)

Joseph took Mary and Jesus in the middle of the night and fled to Egypt, about 90 miles from Bethlehem. The delay caused by the Wise Men avoiding Herod gave the holy family enough time to escape safely. Some Bible scholars think Joseph paid for the trip by selling the gifts from the Magi.

When Herod found out he had been tricked by the Wise Men, he was enraged. He ordered all male children two years old and younger in Bethlehem to be slaughtered.

Scholars think between 10 to 30 infants were massacred.

Shortly after, Herod died. An angel of the Lord appeared in still another dream to Joseph in Egypt, telling him it was safe to return home. They journeyed back to Israel.

But another danger remained. Herod's son Archelaus, even more cruel than his father, was reigning in Judah, where Bethlehem was located. God sent a dream to Joseph, telling him to go to Galilee instead.

Once again they settled in Nazareth, where Jesus, like his foster father, would become a carpenter and would one day leave there to become Savior of the World.

(Sources:  International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, general editor; New International Bible Commentary, W. Ward Gasque, New Testament editor;  Sacred Books of the East, Max Muller, editor; New Bible Commentary, G.J. Wenham, J.A. Motyer, D.A. Carnson, R.T. France, editors; NIV Study Bible, Zondervan Publishing.)

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Zavada, Jack. "How Joseph Saved Christmas." ThoughtCo, Dec. 16, 2016, Zavada, Jack. (2016, December 16). How Joseph Saved Christmas. Retrieved from Zavada, Jack. "How Joseph Saved Christmas." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 17, 2017).