“…pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendent of David.” (Luke 1:27)
Joseph was a distant relative of David. It was through him that Jesus, what we’d call a “stepson,” got to claim connection to the most notable king of Israel. If you take a canonical reading of Luke’s gospel (i.e., you accept the reading as the canon offers it), you see a great space in Joseph being the father of Jesus. As the husband of Mary, he became the father of her son. He would father, instruct, and raise him.
Joseph did a powerful thing in raising Jesus. He granted Jesus access to the respected royal lineage of one king God promised would reign forever. Because of Joseph’s family heritage, Jesus would be linked to and embodied as God’s enduring promise.
I don’t know that Joseph found things so royal when Mary announced things. That’s between the lines in the text, unfortunately edited from the sacred pages. We know those conversations happened. Joseph was no super saint. He was a regular one. He worked with hammers and tools and pieces of wood. He made commitments. He stayed with his choices. And he stayed with Mary.
In staying with Mary, he committed to this little child who came from…heaven? On my best days I still scratch my head of the wonder of Mary’s conception. God chooses strange ways to come to us.
Joseph raised Jesus as part of his family, and legally and spiritually it was Joseph’s line that opened to this “stepson” a world of possibility. It was possible for Jesus to be in relationship to David, the revered and loved and remembered monarch so humanly described in our scriptures. And it was possible for Jesus to bridge into all the God said God would do.
Of course, we get Mary’s side of things too. Jesus is a child of God, literally. He comes because of the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing of Mary. The child is a reaction of God’s steady and long-term favor for the world. The Spirit enriched Mary with this divine seed. She received the child from the Holy Spirit according to our scriptures, and we are presented with a Jesus who is doubly-gifted. He is gifted from God on his mother’s side and he is gifted from Joseph on his father’s side. He is raised as a royal man “up one side and down the other.”
May we remember the Josephs of the world while we so quickly recall our blessed Marys. Fathers and mothers bring us into royalty. May God grant us the ability to praise each one who introduces us, links us, and bridges us to the fulfillment of promise.