Holy Family Values, Batman: An appreciation for fathers
Newsweek's cover story, Holy Family Values, is subtitled, "How first-century Jewish family values shaped Christianity." Fascinating article.
Reading the article reminded me of an appreciation I've always had for the unsung hero of the Nativity—Joseph. And I mean literally unsung. Mary's got all kinds of songs where she's featured, from "What Child Is This" to "Little Drummer Boy." Nary a song includes any lyrics where we sing "Joseph" in the same way we sing "Mary" or "the virgin." A sad omission.
For after all, it was Joseph who willingly married a girl carrying someone else's child. It was Joseph who left his career as a carpenter to bring the mother and child to safety in another country until their enemies were gone. And it was Joseph who brought them back again when the coast was clear.
The thing that strikes me about this is that's two job changes within the period of a few years, on behalf of a child. Who does that? Most of the time, it's the kids and dependent spouses who have to move when the head of household requires it. But to relocate and start over in a strange place, not once but twice, for a preschooler?
Fatherhood today sometimes seems under siege. Changing gender roles and job markets have sometimes left men floundering, wondering what their actual place is in the scheme of things. Women seem to know the house still needs to be cleaned, the food cooked, the children raised. But on the men's side, when every job that was traditionally yours has now been "outsourced" to the other gender, I suppose that can be disorienting.
In doing my best to teach my son how to be a man, I've often looked to the example of Joseph. We don't know much about his personality, but we do know about his actions. He was a man of action. He realized the steps that needed to be taken, and he did them. He put his family first. He put a child first, a child not even of his flesh. He did what had to be done.
And it's an essential, although often overlooked, part of the story. In that day and age, Mary could not have done it alone. Even today it's hard, and back then, impossible, for her to give the child a respectable life without a husband and father. Without Joseph stepping in as father, I doubt Jesus would have gotten anywhere near that temple as a twelve-year-old—he would have been marked as illegitimate before they even left home.
So I raise my mug of hot chocolate this morning to Joseph, and to fathers everywhere who every day fight the battle for their children, step-children, grandchildren, adopted children. Look for their unsung deeds today, and send some appreciation their way.
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