If you read last Friday's news briefs, you probably came across this particular story —which is very fitting for this time of year— about the uproar caused by a billboard erected in New Zealand, showing a dejected Joseph sharing a bed with his 'wife' Mary. This billboard caused some interesting comments:
"What we're trying to do is to get people to think more about what Christmas is all about," he told the New Zealand Press Association (NZPA).
"Is it about a spiritual male God sending down sperm so a child would be born, or is it about the power of love in our midst as seen in Jesus?"
Unsurprisingly, the Catholic reaction was thus:
"Our Christian tradition of 2,000 years is that Mary remains a virgin and that Jesus is the son of God, not Joseph," she told the New Zealand Herald. "Such a poster is inappropriate and disrespectful."
Jesus, the son of God; and Mary, the forever virgin... & what about Joseph?
Instead of entering into the usual debate of whether Mary had more children apart from his first-born Jesus —something believed by the Protestand faiths and even manifested in some Apocryphal gospels— I would like to write a few things on behalf of poor Joseph, strictly from the 'canonical' side of things.
If you look at any classical painting depicting the 'holy family' you will usually find Joseph relegated to a secondary position, with the center upfront reserved to Mary and her child. This was a popular formula to help manifest to the viewer that Jesus was not related to Joseph in the blood —although today I laughed with the comment of a journalist, who questioned whether the real reason Joseph is always hiding in the back, is out of shame for not having followed his wife's sage advise: "See now how we have to stay in stable? I TOLD you to book us a room beforehand!" ;)
But anyway, the canonical gospels tell us little of Joseph, aside from informing us he's a descendant of the house of David; but all the time we see poor Joe obeying commands sent by the 'real' father of the boy during his dreams: "what's this about a divorce?! accept your wife because the child is MINE"; "take the child and flee to Egypt! who cares about your carpentry business?"; "So you like the pyramids after all, huh? well, tough luck! return to Israel".
And every time poor faithful Joe obeyed as asked, without hesitation —and without asking for any child support to the 'biological' dad either!— and what did he get in return?
A secondary role in every painting of his family.
Well, if there's something I've learned of living 36 years in this planet, is this: 'Father' is NOT the guy who engenders the child, but the guy who raises that child —isn't that what we keep telling young boys everytime we put a condom on their hands?— Father is the man who educates the child, and that through his example turns the child into a proper adult.
So maybe a dove came down from heaven & planted some celestial seed into a young hebrew girl. To me, a bigger miracle is that of a man who raises a child who is not of his blood, and loves him as if it were his own.
A miracle that can still occur to this very day, everytime an orphan is adopted.
So, this Xmas eve, be sure to make a toast on behalf of Joseph: the carpenter who raised the son of a God, and helped turn him into the son of Man :)