I often think about Joseph when it comes to Christmas. Sure he gets many mentions in the nativity story, featuring on lots of Christmas cards and being a coveted role in the nativity plays, but I often wonder if Joseph felt anything like the man in this Disney advert; like a stepdad trying to find his place in a family and with a child he loved but had no genetic link to.
Joseph sort of disappears from Jesus’ story after the early days, we’re not told what happens to him, but most assume he’s probably died by the time Jesus starts his public ministry. But We do have a story of Joseph being present when Jesus was 12, and we can assume that by this point Jesus is following in his stepfather’s footsteps of carpentry, learning the family trade.
But Joseph isn’t Jesus’ dad, and I wonder of there were times when that was painfully obvious, when Jesus was a teenager pushing the family boundaries. Or when Joseph looked at his son and didn’t see a family likeness. And yet Joseph stayed and still they were a family.
As in the advert, it is neither genetics nor blood that truly make a family, but presence and love. At Christmas the holy family teach us this, that a family can just be a group of people who find themselves together, working out how to live together and working out how to love each other.
Perhaps this Advent can be a timely reminder to us that love is what makes a family as we work out how to live with the people we find ourselves with, whether they are actually related to us or not.