God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

(Luke 1:26–28, NIV)


When I stepped outside, the wind bit into my layers of high-tech clothes to let me know that winter was dominating the season. My initial shivering was out of respect. I pulled down my hat, cinched up my coat, and thrust my already-gloved hands deep into my pockets. Then, I turned west and started my brisk morning walk.

A striking nativity scene on a snow-covered lawn caught my eye. A manger cradled the baby Jesus. Mary was showering her motherly love over the newborn. Shepherds were watching.

What made me smile was the figure on the perimeter of this historic gathering. As quiet as he was in the biblical account, Joseph is observing the scene. But he is a hero that makes the Christmas story come to life.

As a very young man, poor by any economical standards, his greatest joy in life was to be pledged to Mary as her husband. According to the customs of his culture, they would be apart for a year. This would be the unequivocal proof of the purity of the bride.

Then came the devastating news. Sometime before the betrothal year was completed, Mary was found to be with child. Joseph was devastated.

Joseph was in agony. He decided to divorce Mary quietly. Then, the angel of the Lord commanded him in a dream to take Mary as his wife without fear. The virgin birth was key to the Christmas prophecy (Isaiah 7:14), and Joseph, a righteous man, insured that this miracle would happen by being obedient to the angel’s command and abstaining from what was natural. He is a hero of the prophetic virgin birth.