As Christians, we are very familiar with Advent as a season of waiting, but really, our whole life is, essentially, a long season of waiting. Particularly, we wait for the last Advent—the last coming of Christ at the end of time. Every Advent gives us the opportunity to pause, and very intentionally focus on what we should be doing every day of our lives—preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ. How are we spending our time in waiting?
Let’s talk about the characters of the nativity, since there is really a lifetime’s worth of study and beauty that we can glean from diving deeper into the mystery of the great Christmas narrative through the experiences of the dynamic characters in play – Joseph and Mary, the Infant Jesus, the shepherds, the angels, the magi, and, as a whole, the Holy Family. The characters of the nativity can each teach us lessons for living our own lives in preparation for Christ’s coming this December, as well as for our own death and Christ’s coming at the end of time.
In this article, I will explore some of the lessons for living from St. Joseph.
The Characters of the Nativity and Their Lessons for Living—St. Joseph: Humility and Devotion
Oh, St. Joseph. He is such a quiet figure in the Gospels—never speaking a single word, yet his actions speaking loudly about the kind of strong, humble, and devoted man he was.
First, St. Joseph teaches us how to be humble.
St. Joseph never thought too highly of himself. Even in Scripture, in Matthew’s genealogy at the beginning of the Gospel, while the Gospel writer lists all of the people in the genealogy as the “father of” so-and-so, except for Joseph. When we come to Joseph’s introduction into the genealogy, we read that Joseph was not the “father of” but the “husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (Matt 1:15-16).
To reflect on the rest of St. Joseph’s first lesson for living, I’d like to refer to the words of Fr. Steve Grunow from Word on Fire Catholic Ministries:
“Saints are not celebrities, who leverage every detail about their lives as a means to be known and recognized. A saint is someone who in their desire to be like Christ is able and willing to disappear into the mission God gives to them. For some saints, this mission brings with it a great deal of attention. But for most saints, the life of grace involves a much lower profile and a death to self which requires an immersion into the most ordinary of circumstances. These circumstances are accepted by the saint because they know that it is precisely in the experience of what is apparently ordinary that God is accomplishing extraordinary things.
“Therefore, it is all of us, who right now find ourselves immersed in the mission to be the unnoticed saints of ordinary circumstances, who know that the silence of Saint Joseph speaks louder than any words.”
Before we move on from St. Joseph, let’s briefly discuss the second lesson for living that I’ve decided to focus on tonight: devotion.
St. Joseph was a man entirely devoted to God and sacrificially devoted to his family. Pope Leo XIII called St. Joseph the “guardian of the Holy Family”—that’s how devoted a spouse and father to Jesus he was. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Joseph was a “just man” (Matt 1:19), meaning he was righteous and devoted to following God’s laws. I like to say that St. Joseph was devoted to spiritual leadership in his family. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI put it, he was “at the service of life and growth…St. Joseph…gave proof of great devotion. For the sake of Christ he experienced persecution, exile, and the poverty which this entails. He had to settle far from his native town. His only reward was to be with Christ.”
This Advent, become a stronger spiritual leader for your family, a devoted member of your family like St. Joseph, and you too will take a step closer to achieving that great reward of being with Christ.
This article is the fourth in a series.
Check out Katie Warner’s exciting new book, Head and Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family (Emmaus Road Publishing, August 2015).
Here’s what some other Catholic authors and leaders are saying about Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family, foreword by Bishop James Conley (Emmaus Road Publishing):
“Read this book now and your children will thank you later.” (Steve Ray)
“Warner has drawn up a map we can read and follow, so that we all arrive at the goal [heaven], together with our families.” (Dr. Scott Hahn)
“Head & Heart will help you take small steps toward building a vibrant Catholic identity in your home.” (Dr. Edward Sri)