When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary home as his wife (Matthew 1:24).
“What’s your number?” That was the question on the lips of my hometown friends the summer I graduated from Northwestern Prep.
It wasn’t a phone number they were interested in. It was the draft number. The lower the number, the better the chances of being drafted. The distant war drums of Vietnam were being heard even in Wisconsin’s Marinette County.
When a person enlists in the Armed Forces, he is making a choice. Someone else makes the choice for the drafted one. Personal preferences matter little. Other plans need to be set aside. Life has changed.
Many of my friends answered that call of duty. Some came back to walk with a cane. Some returned fighting mental demons. Some were carried home in a casket.
They were drafted. I was not. I was pre-enrolled as a divinity student. I was exempt from the draft. I was not exempt from the guilt of knowing someone else went in my place.
Joseph of Nazareth, of the line of Jesse, Hezekiah, and Zerubbabel, born in the 14th generation from the exile to Babylon—that Joseph, the carpenter, was drafted to be the stepfather of the Lord God Incarnate. It was a role with immense responsibility.
It was a role he did not choose. The news that his fiancé was pregnant crushed his soul. He would not have her stoned, as the Law allowed. He would not expose her to public shame. He would divorce her quietly. That was his choice.
That was not God’s choice. The Holy One of Israel had chosen him to be the faithful and loving husband of Mary, and the father figure for Jesus. Embarrassment and gossip were to be set aside. Fear of a Herod, the baby killer, was to be overcome. He would spend his entire life on active duty. “Always faithful” would be his motto. Faithful husband, faithful parent—this is what he was called to do, the person he was to be.
We don’t know much about the later life of Joseph. The last time he is mentioned, Jesus is about to become a teenager. Joseph then fades from view.
At times, the Apostle Peter had a swagger. The Apostle John had been called, “A Son of Thunder.” Other people close to Jesus are well known to us. Joseph is not.
He is like the one who simply went to war when his name was called. He served quietly and faithfully. No medals. No fanfare. No glory.
Except from his heavenly Father. Except when his tour of duty was over.
Except when he reported to heaven and met his stepson face to face.
We might say he had been drafted. He probably would disagree. Honored would be his choice of words.
And, we nod our heads in assent.
Lord Jesus, we respect and honor the memory of your stepfather, Joseph. He has set an example for us of faithful service and honorable duty. Allow us to serve you as faithfully as he once served. Remind us that we have not been drafted to service in your kingdom. We have been called to serve. With that, you have given to us a great honor.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military