A story is told about a School Christmas Pageant in which the boy playing Joseph became ill and was not able to perform. They did not replace him and nobody noticed. Nobody missed Joseph. Yet, Joseph is important.
In those days people married in stages. Firstly there was an engagement. This happened when a boy and a girl were very young and it was done by their families. The second stage was the betrothal. Here is where a couple accepted and ratified the engagement their parents had made. They could leave before the betrothal but to separate after the Betrothal required a formal legal procedure. A year later came the solemn marriage, which was final. Joseph and Mary were in the middle phase, the Betrothal. Joseph was a man of commitment, he truly loved Mary and was to divorce her quietly. But, reassured by God, in a dream, he committed himself to Mary and Jesus.
Commitment! It is said that our character is revealed not by the number of options we leave open in our lives but by the commitments we embrace. Talking about commitments leaves people uneasy. Because many see commitment as a loss of freedom, the surrender of options, and the deprivation of personal preferences. Our culture seems to teach us to avoid commitment. Joseph could have walked away from his commitment to Mary and Jesus, even after his dream, but he didn’t. Christmas is a good time to renew our commitments to our families, our vocation, our work and our church community. Maturity is indeed defined not by the number of options we leave open but by the commitments we keep, even when it isn’t easy.
Joseph is a powerful model for us at this time of year. A model of adult commitment which our culture desperately needs and a reminder to us to renew those commitments that shape our life and soul. Christmas is not just a beautiful story that warms our heart. It is about a solid fact that can save our soul.