12 Days of Christmas Reflection Series – Day 9
Matthew 1:18-21, 24-25
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, 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. 21 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.” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
What if Joseph succeeded to divorce Mary? Mary would have had a big problem concerning her pregnancy. That is why the angel had it settled with Joseph first otherwise Mary’s conception might have been canceled and the angel would have to find another virgin to become the Christopher – Christ-bearer.
Joseph had several roles in the life of the messiah. He brought Jesus to Egypt to save the child from King Herod who was after the child’s life. There were killings of the innocent children ordered by Herod hoping to kill the newly born king. But not only during the birth and childhood time was the role of Joseph, he also raised Jesus into manhood.
The historical Jesus was the son of Joseph, a tekton. Jesus, therefore, was a Tekton. Tekton is a Greek word that means a carpenter, a housebuilder. Could also be a stoneworker or a city builder. The craftsmanship used to earn for a living – an ordinary kind of a laborer.
We should know that there were large building projects in Galilee at the time of Jesus, and an especially important one just a few miles (one hour’s walk) from Nazareth, his hometown together with Mary and Joseph, his brothers, and sisters. When the Romans built Sepphoris, the capital city of Galilee, they certainly used local people, both slaves, and waged laborers from nearby villages. In fact, it could be that Jesus was despised because he had worked in the Roman building project, constructing a pagan city of Sepphoris. (Sakari Häkkinen)
It would be very simplistic and out of context to say that Jesus immersed with the people as if it was his intention. I believe that it is wise to say that Jesus was among the people who were marginalized and oppressed by the system or the kind of governance of his time, the rulers – the Roman Empire, the Kings, and the religious leaders.
It was not surprising then that his preaching or speeches were about the needs and demands of the people of his time. That he spoke the language of the people because he was among them.
In the popularly known as the Lord’s Prayer, we hear him asking the Father in heaven, “give us today our daily bread…” because they were in a hand-to-mouth existence.
In Luke 4, he read Isaiah’s prophecy, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This does not only define his mission but also reflected their political and economic situation and the desire of the people.
In John 10, we heard him say an assurance to the people, “I have come that you may have life in abundance…” because they were in extreme poverty.
In Matthew 25, “whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me…” because of poverty everyone needs everyone, and he encouraged the people to do good to everyone in need in the community and to tell the people that whatever was done to them by the rulers and oppressors were also done to God.
Therefore, Jesus was easily accepted by his audience because he speaks of them and about them. The Jesus movement was of the poor and for the poor against the ruling class. It was the reason for his arrest and death sentence as we can read in John 11, the plot against Jesus…
The situation, the cry of the people in Jesus and post-Jesus time is still true until now in our own time. And it is not only in the Philippines but elsewhere in the world. Even in the countries and places having the so-called advanced and developed economic and political system in the world – in North America, in Europe, in Asia, the Middle East, and everywhere this kind of situation is existing.
The urban and the rural poor must suffer the effects of development aggression – their lands and houses had to be grabbed and demolished to give way to the foreign business interests facilitated by no less than their own government. The landless peasants and indigenous peoples have been driven away from their land, the very land that is the source of their livelihood for the interest of transnational corporations of mining, agribusiness, and for the rest and recreation of the lords such as golf courses and world-class hotels and casinos.
The Jesus Movement kind of faith expression among us Christians is very much needed and is appropriately applicable in our context today. We must be able to see Jesus – the carpenter, the laborer, the common man in our midst. And if you are not marginalized, or at least if we still do not feel to be among the marginalized sectors of our society, we must see Jesus among them so that we can speak their language – the language of our people who are oppressed and persecuted.
The Bible does not record and speak about Joseph the way it does to Mary and the apostles, but the growth of Jesus must have been largely influenced by his being a carpenter. He must have exposed Jesus to the realities of his own community in Nazareth, in Galilee.
Thus, to fathers, mothers, and parents of today, it is a challenge for us to be like Joseph in raising our children so that they will see what is happening in the society and then like Jesus, they will feel for themselves and the situation of the people around them – the people of our time.
Hamburg, 2 January 2022, The Ninth day of Christmas