During this Christmas season I find myself thinking about Joseph, husband of Mary, legal father of Jesus and the family breadwinner. Talk about an unsung hero. Think what it must have been like to find your betrothed pregnant when you had never been intimate with her. Being informed of her immaculate conception by an angel is one thing, but that didn't calm the ridicule from relatives and friends who were thinking Mary, at the very least, was sleeping with Joseph before marriage.
Then, a few months after their marriage along came Jesus as proclaimed. Being the family provider, can you imagine Joseph's frustration at not being able to rent an appropriate place for his wife to give birth to her child? So they end up in an animal stall with straw for bedding, in a stable. Some say this was the origin of Jesus' humility all during his ministry. But at the time it must have been humiliating and a strain on Joseph.
Almost immediately after Jesus' birth, and the three gift-bearing wise visitors had departed, Joseph got word about King Herod's edict to put all new-born male children to death. So off they go to Egypt. Now, think about this: Here is Joseph, a simple carpenter, finding himself vacating his manhood as head of his family by fleeing to another country to avoid his son's murder. What would he do in Egypt? How could he make a living? He had no way of knowing that, because Jesus was the Messiah, family needs would be met.
Now, as a new parent, here comes the fun of raising a son who you know is endowed with special powers and intelligence surpassing your own. That is a difficult pill to swallow. You've been told that your offspring is the Messiah, the coming savior of Israel and the world and yet, He is a mere child. We know from Scripture there were a few times when Jesus asserted himself by defying parental wishes, making it clear that He was out and about his father's (God's) business -- another tough pill to swallow for earthly father Joseph.
Somehow, all through the trials and tribulations of having moved to Egypt and then back to Judea, Joseph continued to be his family's provider. There is very little in Scripture to tell us exact details about the raising of young Jesus but isn't it logical to assume that while he hadn't as yet performed public miracles, he must have privately shown his ability to do so to his parents?
Certainly Joseph and Mary had observed Jesus doing things that other kids simply couldn't do.-
How else could Mary have known, when she requested that Jesus perform his first public miracle, at Cana (changing jugs of water into wine for the wedding feast whose host had run out of wine), that Jesus could and would do it. This is also one of the first, if not the first, indication that Jesus never refused a request from his mother, Mary. In fact, this is why we Catholics pray to Mary. It isn't that we worship Mary as we worship Jesus. We don't! We pray to Mary to intercede for us through our petitions to Jesus.
Scripture tells us little about Joseph during the times of Jesus' ministry. We must assume that he continued his head-of-the-family role. We have no evidence to the contrary. As a father of five myself, many times I've tried to put myself in Joseph's shoes and I'm always awed by the private feelings he must have had during the time of Mary's immaculate conception, and the subsequent raising of the most exceptional child to ever grace any household. Mind-boggling. -
Perhaps you'll find time during these holidays to include Mary and Joseph in your thoughts as millions of us celebrate this anniversary of Jesus' birth. And should you find yourself in Las Vegas, please visit St. Joseph, Husband of Mary Catholic church for a uniquely religious experience. It is without question a very special holy place, conceived and built by our own Rev. Joe Anthony, late of Virginia City, now chaplain of the VA Medical Center, Kerrville, Texas.-
Have a holy and happy Christmas.
• Bob Thomas is a retired high-tech industrialist who later served on the Carson City School Board, the state welfare board, the airport authority and as a state assemblyman. His website is www.worldclassentrepreneur.com.