(I get to volunteer a few hours each week as a “Fatherhood Coach” with a local nonprofit, sitting down with young dads-to-be. At our monthly staff meeting, it was my turn the other day to give the short devotional. Here’s what I said, since it happened to be Christmastime.)
Are you curious about what really goes on in heaven? Many people are. Just this week, my wife looked at the framed pictures of my parents and her parents (all four deceased) and asked, “Do you think they’re in touch with each other now? Heaven has millions of people; have they found each other in all the crowds?”
And of course, I had to say once again, “Don’t know! The Bible doesn’t give a lot of the details we’d like.”
What about the angels—do they have job assignments? Surely they don’t ALL sing in the heavenly choir! Are some of them cooks? Landscapers? IT specialists to keep everyone’s internet running smoothly?!
What if some of them are logistics coordinators? Hmmm … imagine with me.…
It’s, oh, say, 2,100 years ago, and the Lord God has called a meeting of the logistics team. Let’s listen in on the conversation:
God: I’ve made a decision about the ongoing problem with humans on Planet Earth. They keep ignoring me, chasing after false gods, and all the rest. I’ve sent any number of prophets to try to straighten them out, and they keep ignoring them. So I’m going to do something radical: I’m going to send my one and only Son DOWN THERE in visible form to see what he can do about it.
Team: Wow! That’s really out-of-the-box…. Let’s see, how shall we make that happen? A dramatic descent from the sky right in the middle of the Passover Festival, with thousands watching? Your Son could come floating down in his white robe, all glistening, with celestial trumpets blasting away….
God: No, that’s too obvious. In fact, I already did the big light-smoke-thunder-earthquake thing at Mount Sinai. People were scared out of their minds—but not for all that long. See how little good it did? This time, I’m going to send my Son as a human baby.
Team: Really?! You mean, like, have a stork deliver him to some doorstep?
God: No, I’m going to implant him into a woman’s womb like any other baby.
Team: Well, okay … we’d better start scouting for the most qualified young couple we can find … healthy, educated, financially stable….
God: No, that would be too subtle. People would never recognize his uniqueness. I have this further out-of-the-box idea: a virgin conception, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Team: [Silence for 10 seconds; then …] So, we need to go looking for a healthy single woman to carry the Child?
God: No. That would lead to all kinds of scandal talk…. Instead, go find an engaged couple, close to their wedding date but not quite yet.
Team: Wait a minute. That’s not going to work. The guy is certainly going to bail on us. He’s going to go storming off to his fiancée, like, “What’s this—you’ve been cheating on me??! I’m outta here! I never want to see you again.”
God, stroking his chin: “Well, you’ll just have to figure out a way to keep him on board. I’m sure you can think of something.”
And so it was that “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.’” (Matt 1:20-21)
It worked. Joseph didn’t bolt for the exits. He stayed the course. He took on the responsibility of this pregnant bride. In so doing, the miracle of a virgin birth was preserved, and the new baby was guaranteed the protection and provision of a wise stepfather.
What’s my point? Even God’s Son needed a mature, level-headed, involved dad.
As time went by, Joseph got a second, third, and even fourth visit from the angel.
- A couple of years later, in the middle of the night, an angel woke him up to say, “Get out of here—now! Your son is in imminent danger. Run for your lives!” (my paraphrase of Matt. 2:13).
Can you imagine the conversation?
“Mary, Mary—wake up! We have to get out of this place immediately. An angel just told me in a dream!”
“Wha … what are you talking about? Go back to sleep!”
“No, I’m serious! We have to hit the road. Otherwise, something terrible is going to happen to us!”
“Good grief, Joseph, can’t this wait at least until daylight? I can’t even see to gather up our stuff.”
“No! We have to move quickly, like right now.”
And so they did.
Once in Egypt, Joseph apparently found a way to resume his carpentry work and support the family. Then …
- Sometime later, the angel was back again to say in essence, “Okay, King Herod the Great is dead now; you can go back to your country” (see Matt. 2:19-20).
They began the trek back northeast. It took at least a week and a half of walking. But somewhere along the trail …
- The angel added, “By the way, don’t stop in Judea. Herod’s son Archelaus, who is now on the throne, is just as vicious as his father was. Keep walking another week or so until you reach safety back in your home town of Nazareth, up north in Galilee” (see Matt. 2:22-23).
Isn’t this remarkable? If any stepfather had grounds to shrink back and be passive, it was Joseph. He could have said, “Hey, this isn’t my deal. Mary’s the one God chose for this unique role. The kid’s not even my flesh-and-blood. I’m just along for the ride. I pay the bills, and she calls the rest of the shots.”
But he didn’t. God obviously wanted him to be the leader of this most unusual household. The growing Boy needed protection, provision, instruction, and good modeling. His wife needed a husband’s strong shoulder to lean on. His role was absolutely essential.
In our society today, ordinary (non-divine) kids and wives are no different. Our place is vital to their well-being. We are called to step up, seize the responsibilities, and lead with steady confidence. It may not always be easy; we may be perplexed at times. But they need our calm, alert engagement, always seeking to stay in sync with the greatest Father of all.