I sat in the temple waiting for my husband to change so we could head home. I opened up the scriptures to Matthew, feeling a tinge of Christmas stir my soul. I read, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:20). There is always an abundance of discussion of Mary during Christmas, but I think perhaps one of the people I love to think about most is Joseph. How would it have felt to know your wife was giving birth to the Son of God? Surly there is no way a mortal man could fully comprehend that. And then to be the mortal guardian of that son. The feelings of inadequacy are unfathomable to me.
I have always loved the way the primary song, “When Joseph went to Bethlehem” imagines Joseph on the night of Christ’s birth. It says:
I think there at the busy inn that he was meek and mild
And awed to be the guardian of Mary’s sacred child.
Perhaps all through the chilly hours he smoothed the swaddling bands,
And Jesus felt the quiet strength of Joseph’s gentle hands.
And close beside the manger bed, he dimmed the lantern’s light
And held the little Jesus close upon that holy night.
I think often of the divinity of Mary as a woman, but what type of man was Joseph that he was chosen to be Jesus’s guardian here on Earth? He must have been one of Heavenly Father’s most trusted spirits. He must have had the kindest heart, the greatest belief in his God, and the most trusting intellect to believe that this truly was the Son of God. He must have known that he too, was a son of God.
At my wedding, my father-in-law spoke about how he has always felt that there was some competition in heaven to determine who would be the Father in the relationship of he and my husband. He spoke of how honored he was to be the father, but that it felt more like my husband was his best friend who happened to be born on this Earth as his son. I imagine that Joseph felt similarly; he must have known the stewardship he had over Christ, but I feel certain that he recognized him as his brother, come to save him, so that they could once again live together in eternity. I imagine that as he sat there, with Mary and Jesus asleep in the hay, that he marveled that he had been chosen for this role. I imagine that he plead to his God that he would be guided in his guardianship. I imagine that he wept, not knowing the future. I imagine that his soul, like the soul of our Father in Heaven, was rent when he watched the crucifixion.
On this Christmas Eve, I will ponder on the great gift that has been given to me. I will also ponder on what it was like to be at that sacred occasion of Christ’s birth. I will feel deep gratitude that Joseph did accept Mary and Joseph after the angel appeared to him; that he helped to raise the Son of God, who gave his life so that we can all return to Heaven. I will be grateful to know that someday, I will be able to hug Joseph and ask him to tell me more of his story.