Imagine the mixed feelings and confusion Joseph must have felt about the news of his fiancé’s mysterious pregnancy. Mary was pregnant but he wasn’t the biological father. His son would actually be God of all gods and King of all kings, but he couldn’t tell anyone that. Matthew 1:20 tells us that “while he considered this” the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream with confirmation, reassurance, and guidance.

God called Joseph to lead a family that included an unusual child, one who would be mistreated and misunderstood by many. Joseph would also be misunderstood. Joseph and Mary’s parenting journey to Bethlehem and beyond was unexpected and difficult. Their story drew attention from quite a varied cast of characters — some who turned this family away, some who came long distances to meet their son, some who offered gifts, some who gave up their lives to follow Jesus, some who gave up their souls by murdering him.

Raise your hand if you can relate to any of this. Families living with the extra or complex needs due to disability are prone to being misunderstood.

During my Christmas reflections this year, I have been wondering if Joseph was a lonely man. I know my husband has frequently felt loneliness since Carly was born. We both have.

Even when we have been surrounded by people who love us, we still experience a sense of isolation at times. Sometimes there is physical distance from the world because caregiving issues keep us housebound. The “breadwinner(s)” work keeps them away from the proximity of direct helping for periods of time. Sometimes the sense of distance involves dissatisfying emotional intimacy with others who can’t or won’t try to empathize with our situation. Yes, a few times, friends have outright rejected us. Occasionally, it has been our own churches that felt far away and uncaring because they didn’t know how to be more inclusive, helpful, or engaging with us.

Friendship is messy at times, no matter life’s circumstances.

Since relatively few people at work, at church, in social circles, and even in extended family will understand the complexity of my husband’s life, I am aware that my words of appreciation and respect carry important weight for him. I wonder if Mary was Joseph’s most valued cheerleader and confidante.

Mothers might seem to be heros on the front lines of battle for a child’s needs and potential. But a father’s love and servant-hearted contributions are foundational, even when it seems to be a quieter or less obvious service behind the scenes. Highly engaged moms can only be so involved and consistent when basic family needs are met. Furthermore, the intimacy of companionship, partnership, and teamwork is a sustaining grace for both parents.

The bible reports none of Joseph’s spoken words. His presence in Jesus’ earthly story might seem understated, but it reveals a deeply loving man, rich in character. He was often expected to make decisions for his family with very little information. He responded in obedience. Joseph’s quiet humility and trust are inspiring.

Joseph remained protective and committed while facing constant pressures of raising the Messiah. When Jesus’ life was threatened by Herod, Joseph helped his family flee like fugitives. Joseph faithfully served and protected his family without fanfare. This is true of so many fathers in our generation raising children with disabilities. It is most certainly true of my dear husband, Larry.

Joseph lived his whole life knowing things about Jesus nobody else would ever know. He was a humble stepfather who loved and served his family with reassurances from an angel and, I imagine, his wife. His loyalty to his family would play a pivotal part in the saving of countless lives.

Whoever you care for today, I hope you are encouraged by Joseph, and know that the God of the universe stands with you too.        

Father God, you know better than anyone the importance of my role in our special needs family. You are intimately acquainted with my weaknesses and my strengths. I need your reassurance that my contributions are good and valuable to my family, even when they are imperfect. Still, help me to grow, and to live by faith in You. I need Your guidance. I want to take my cues from You rather than responding to the pressures and affections of the world. Guard my heart and attitude when I try to please myself or others instead of walking in obedience to Your leading. Forgive me for trying to be important rather than Your servant. Equip me with godly mindset, skills, energy, and fruits of the spirit to love and care for my family well. Grow my trust in Your supreme care for my family. Thank you for providing for us, protecting us, strengthening us, and multiplying Your good purposes through us. AMEN

Related Worship: Reason to Praise by Cory Asbury (featuring Naomi Raine).

Lisa Jamieson is an author, speaker, special needs family advocate, and ordained pastoral counselor. She is co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries where she trains and counsels family caregivers to walk abundantly in life, faith, and relationships. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome.

NOTE: I am thankful to Francine Rivers’ book The Family of Jesus for inspiring this Christmas series. Check it out if you want to dig deeper into history-changing people in Jesus’ family.


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