Monday—Read Matthew 13:54-55 in the New Testament. This is where we learn the vocation of Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. He’s identified as a “tekton”, meaning one who builds with a variety of materials. Joseph would have been one who constructed furnishings, tools, yokes for beasts of burden, etc. He would not have been one assumed to be the father or father figure for a great leader of faith. Why do you suppose God chose a carpenter to raise Jesus?
Tuesday—Read Matthew 13:54-57 in the New Testament. A synagogue is a gathering of Jewish men for worship, learning, and prayer. Any man in good standing could read from the Law and the Prophets and expound on it. Jesus did so, and people took offense at home. Apparently, their negative reaction had to do with Jesus’ family, including his earthly father, Joseph. Why would this offend the faithful men of Nazareth?
Wednesday—Read Mark 1:16-20 in the Old Testament. When Jesus chose those who would lead his movement, he did not choose recognized religious leaders or prominent people. He chose obscure people, such as commercial fishermen, tax collectors, and revolutionaries – unusual “raw material.” Did Jesus learn to see value in raw material from Joseph the carpenter? What kind of a message does this give to you and others around you?
Thursday—Read Mark 13:35-36 in the New Testament. The word “Abba” was the Hebrew/Aramaic term a small child would call his or her father. It is an intimate term of love between father and child. This is the word Jesus chose to address God, even and especially at this, the worst moment of his life. Might Jesus have been using the same word he used for Joseph? Did Joseph show that love was close, and cultivate this way for Jesus to speak to his Father, God?
Friday—Read Philippians 2:5-8 in the New Testament. Joseph had to humble himself to accept the role God had for him in Jesus’ life. Joseph had to realize that he would not be in the limelight as much as Mary and her son, Jesus. He had to accept the message that is so hard for so many of us – “It’s not about you!” In what ways might Jesus has seen a model of humility in his father-figure, Joseph?
Monday—Read Matthew 1:1-17 in the New Testament. While not complete, this is most of the generational heritage leading up to Jesus. Jesus was born in a patriarchal culture, so genealogy was traced through the father’s line. Why do you suppose Matthew included four women in the listing, including prostitutes and foreigners? Is it possible that he wanted us to know that God takes the most unlikely people and uses them for great purposes? The genealogy makes a link to David, the great king of Israel. Why would that be important for Matthew’s audience, which was mostly of Jewish background?
Tuesday—Read Matthew 1:18 in the New Testament. Most marriages in first century Galilee were arranged. The agreement was legal and binding, even before the couple were married. They were referred to as “husband and wife” even before they repeated vows, lived together, and slept together. There were economic benefits and protections for both the bride’s family and the groom’s family. Great shame would come to both the bride and the groom and their families if the bride became pregnant and her husband to be was not the father. How do you imagine this news hit Joseph? What do you suppose it was like for Mary to tell him?
Wednesday—Read Deuteronomy 22:20-21 in the Old Testament. This was the statute in the ancient laws governing what could happen to women becoming pregnant outside of marriage. It came from a time early in the history of the Hebrews when fidelity at all levels was seen as crucial. It seems severe to most people today. It might not have been practiced widely at Mary’s and Joseph’s time, but the law was still in place. How do you think Joseph might have been tempted to play this card?
Thursday—Read Matthew 1:19 in the New Testament. Joseph could have shamed Mary publicly and taken from her any benefit of having been engaged to marry him. He chose not to do so. Joseph clearly did not believe Mary’s story of being pregnant by the Holy Spirit, but he did not want to shame her further than she already would be. Matthew notes that Joseph did this because he was a “righteous” man. In Joseph’s case, what do you suppose that means?
Friday—Read Psalm 116:5-7 in the Old Testament. “Righteous” means purity of heart and life. Righteousness is reflective of the character of God. It is linked to God’s grace. Grace means that which is undeserved, unearned, unanticipated, but freely given. How does this relate to Joseph’s motivation in giving Mary the opportunity to move on with her life? Was Joseph’s action an act of grace? If so, how so?
Monday—Read Matthew 1:18-21 in the New Testament. Why did the angel have to appear to Joseph in a dream? (The angel appeared to Mary directly.) As a “tekton” (carpenter) Joseph likely would have been a detailed, analytic person. He might not have been as open to a messenger from God in awakened time. Maybe God chose to get into his subconscious, symbolic dream world to get through to him. Has God ever spoken to you in a dream? How would you respond if God did?
Tuesday—Read Genesis 20:1-7 in the Old Testament. This is a story that occurred when a man names Abraham was on his way to a land which God would reveal to him. It’s one of many instances in which God spoke to people through dreams. Abraham’s great- grandson, another Joseph, also received direction from God in dreams. How do you suppose they knew that a dream was a message from God and not just a random dream? How would we know today?
Wednesday—Read Matthew 1:20 and Luke 2:8-10 in the New Testament. Just as the message to Joseph started with, “Don’t be afraid…”, so did the message to the Bethlehem shepherds. Frequently the Bible writers record that a message from God begins with, “Don’t be afraid…” This doesn’t just mean, “Don’t be scared of what you’re seeing and what’s happening right now.” It also means, “Don’t be afraid of what’s about to happen.” God has a habit of shaking up our comfortable little worlds. Has God ever sent you a “don’t be afraid” message? Where would you like God to tell you not to be afraid now?
Thursday—Read Hebrews 13:2 in the New Testament. In this letter followers of Jesus are encouraged to practice hospitality. First century Christians did not extend hospitality simply because hospitality was a highly valued virtue in the Middle East at that time. They did so because of the hospitality God has demonstrated to them in and through Jesus Christ. This statement presumes that messages from God and messengers from God (angels) can come in the form of strangers. When has a person unknown to you become a messenger from God for you?
Friday—Read Acts 5:17-20 in the New Testament. In this story, leaders in the early church in Jerusalem have been imprisoned for stirring people up with the good news of Jesus Christ. Someone identified as an angel/messenger from God frees them and gives them direction from God. We are not just the recipients of that which messengers from God bring to us. As Jesus-followers we will be called to BE angels/messengers for others? When have you been someone else’s angel? How might God be calling you to be one now?
Monday—Read Luke 2:1-6 in the New Testament. In starting the story of Jesus’ birth, Luke identifies powerful political figures at that point in history: Caesar Augustus, the ruler of the great Roman Empire and Quirinius, the governor of the region representing the Empire. He also notes David, who was known as the greatest of Israel’s kings from the past. Contrasting all of these men is Joseph, and unknown carpenter from Galilee. Why do you suppose Luke starts the story with that contrast? Could he be telling is that God does great things through those the world might over look?
Tuesday—Read John 21:15-18 in the New Testament. This exchange occurs after Jesus has risen from death and before he returns to God. In the conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter, Jesus assures Simon that as a follower of Jesus he will be led in ways he would not choose to go on his own. This is similar to Joseph having to make the 70+ mile foot journey with Mary; a journey he would not have picked on his own. God has a history of inviting people on trips they did not plan. Has that ever happened to you or to anyone you know?
Wednesday—Read Micah 5:2 in the Old Testament. These words were offered at a time when the nation faced invasion by the great Assyrian Empire, centuries before the time of Jesus. In spite of the coming calamity, Micah claimed to speak for God in assuring the people that the ruling lineage of the great king David would have no end. As you read on Monday, Jesus was from the family line of David, by way of being Joseph’s adopted son. Why was that important for people then? Why is it important now?
Thursday—Read Romans 5:1-5 in the New Testament. Paul wrote the letter to the Roman Christians in advance of what he thought would be his ultimate journey to share the good news of Jesus Christ; to Rome and then to Spain. In his previous trips he witnesses great and powerful movements of the Holy Spirit, and he experience many unanticipated and unwanted hardships. Yet here he says that even the hard journeys can and do have Jesus-centered outcomes. It’s like he’s saying, “The worst thing (like taking a pregnant woman on a long foot journey to Bethlehem) is not the last thing.” Do you believe that? Why or why not?
Friday—Read Isaiah 40:28-31 in the Old Testament. This comes from another time of invasion; this time by the Babylonian empire. Jerusalem fell, and many of God’s faithful were taken into exile in Babylon. And yet in the worst of this, the prophet Isaiah made this proclamation of faith in God. How did Joseph demonstrate that those who wait on God will renew their strength and take flight like eagles? How do we wait on God, believing this to be true?
Monday—Read Genesis 45:1-15 in the Old Testament. This is the story of another Joseph, from many centuries before the birth of Jesus. Joseph was the favored youngest son of the patriarch Jacob. His older brothers were jealous of him, and they had Joseph sold into slavery. Devastating as this was, this became the vehicle for Joseph to come to great power in the empire of Egypt, and ultimately to save his people from a killing famine. Joseph had to adapt to his circumstances. Many times God does some of God’s best stuff when people adapt to unforeseen and even undesirable changes. Who are other examples of this in the Bible?
Tuesday—Read Matthew 2:13-15 in the New Testament. From the time first learned that Mary was pregnant, he had to adapt constantly to unforeseen circumstances. In yet another unanticipated situation, he has to adapt by literally running for safety. Joseph has to lead his little family out of the country in order to protect Mary and the baby Jesus. Sometimes the need to adapt is a life-or-death matter. Have you ever faced such a situation? How would you be willing to adapt in order to protect someone else?
Wednesday—Read Isaiah 6:1-8 in the Old Testament. Centuries before Jesus was born, at a time when God’s people had drifted far from God and faced imminent destruction, God called a man named Isaiah to speak on God’s behalf. This was not on Isaiah’s radar, and he felt totally unprepared and unworthy for the task. But God was insistent. Isaiah had to learn that God does not call the equipped; God equips the called. It was not about Isaiah and his fitness to serve; it was about God and God’s power. Isaiah had to adapt. Adapting is about saying, “Yes.” If God called you to some great, impossible task, what are the kinds of things that would keep you from saying “Yes” to God?
Thursday—Read Nehemiah 6:1-4 in the Old Testament. Nehemiah was a leader of God’s people at a time when many of them were returning from a generation in exile faraway in a conqueror’s country. Part of Nehemiah’s task was the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s protective walls. Many people and circumstances worked to try to distract Nehemiah from this focus. In order to say, “Yes” to his call, Nehemiah needed to say, “No” to these diversions. Adapting means saying, “No.” To what do you need to say, “No” in order to say, “Yes” to God?
Friday—Read Matthew 1:20-21 in the New Testament. God all the way back to the original adapting circumstance for Joseph; the call to take Mary as his wife and to raise her son as his own. Notice the last line in verse 21: “…you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (“Jesus” or “Y’shua” literally means, “He saves.”) Joseph doesn’t know how this will happen. But God invites him to look beyond the confusion of his present circumstances to a yet-to-be time when Jesus will be Savior and Lord. Adapting means seeing beyond the present moment. Where might God be inviting you to see beyond this present time in your life?