Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
I haven’t forgotten. It’s not only because there are still gifts to be delivered and given. It’s because Christmas is not over. The season leading up to December 24 is actually the Advent season of the Christian Church Year. Many people completely ignore it. We’re just not good at waiting. We want it now. So we turn the days after Thanksgiving (if we wait even that long) into a month-long Christmas obsession. Then on the 26th – if not before the end of Christmas Day, the decorations come down. They’ve already removed the wreath from our neighborhood entrance.
But Christmas actually lasts until Epiphany – the Christmas of the Gentiles – January 6. And although you might have wondered (if you’ve been reading this blog for the past few days) whether I’m finished with Christmas. I haven’t said much about it. But today I will. And it has everything to do with what it means to adhere to the warnings and promises of this psalm.
And Joseph. Mary’s betrothed. The earthly father of Jesus. Matthew tells us:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. -Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph was a righteous man. But he didn’t posture in his righteousness. That was the expertise of the Pharisees. They harrumphed, and judged, and made sure to punish anyone who did not live up to their standards (which were conveniently lax toward their own pecadillos). Joseph in his righteousness did not take the counsel of such self-righteous persons as they. Joseph took the path of love – the truest measure of righteousness. He did not blame. He did not keep a record of wrongs. He bore Mary’s burden. He believed the angel’s message. He hoped to make a life with her. Check out 1 Corinthians 13 and think of how Joseph so graciously lived out that description of love.
Joseph also waited. He waited to know Mary as his wife until after the child was born. He waited to name the child until the proper time, and called him Jesus. He waited for God to reveal his plan before acting. And he was blessed. He provided for their safety when Herod’s threats impinged on the child Jesus. He brought his family to Egypt and then back to Nazareth to raise the boy Jesus. He took Jesus to the temple. He also knew who Jesus’ true father was. It was not Joseph.
And how did all this work out? Jesus grew into a young man who loved God and his neighbor perfectly. I can’t think of a better parenting success story than that.
We don’t know much about Joseph. But we can see the righteousness of his character in the little we do know. Obedience and patience are not often the counsel of the wicked, sinners, or scoffers. Thank God Joseph did not take their counsel, but obeyed God, believed the angel’s message, and waited for God to lead and provide for him: Truly blessed he was indeed.