In most movies, you have the main actors, and then you have the supporting actors. They are the ones who are not the most prominent players in the story but who fill out the story in some way or another. When you come to the Christmas story, you have the main actors: Jesus and Mary (the mother of Jesus), the shepherds, the wise men, and then there is Joseph. Joseph is almost like a supporting actor. You rarely hear a sermon about him, and you will never see him alone on a Christmas stamp or card. However, in actual fact, there is much about him worth considering because he was a significant part of the story.

Joseph’s position was that of Mary’s husband. Since it was a virgin birth and Joseph had no part in the creation of the baby, he was in one sense unnecessary, but in another sense, he was invaluable. He was the husband of Mary and the stepfather of Jesus. In turn, he was the head of the home, and as such, he is the model of what it means to be a Christian husband and father. The spiritual and personal leader in the home. Let us look at 5 major characteristics of this man that enabled him to fulfill his God-given destiny in the Christmas story and the days that followed. As such, he is a model for us all (both men and women).


In Matthew 1:19 (NKJV), we are told, “Joseph her husband, being a just man.” Other translations described it this way “a righteous man,” “an upright man,” “a man of stern principle,” i.e., a man of integrity, a man with conviction.

It was because he was such a man that he wrestled with the news Mary gave him that she was pregnant. He did not want “to make her a public example” (Matthew 1:19, NKJV), i.e., to expose his betrothed wife. To understand this situation, it will help to look at Jewish marriage in those days.

There were 3 stages:

  • The Engagement. This was often arranged by the parents when the couple were only children.
  • The Betrothal. At this stage, the girl could withdraw from the engagement, but once she entered into the betrothal, it was absolutely binding. It lasted one year and could not be terminated except by divorce. Joseph was betrothed to Mary, who was legally known as his wife.
  • The Marriage/Prenup. This would take place at the end of the year of betrothal. You can see Joseph, a man of principle, was in a pickle, so to speak. He did not want to expose Mary publically and was probably unsure what to do because he was a righteous man.


As noted before, he did not want to disgrace Mary and decided to put her away secretly, i.e., divorce her quietly. He was righteous, but he was also loving and compassionate. Someone once said, “Righteousness without love and compassion is hard love, and compassion without righteousness is soft, flabby, but righteousness with love and compassion is strong and wholesome.”

The same thing is required of a father (or a mother) in dealing with children. You need discipline and love. If Joseph had decided not to take to himself Mary and pressed the law on her, which according to Deuteronomy 22:24, meant death by stoning as the punishment for such a sin, who knows what could have happened to Mary and Jesus?


So, Joseph took Mary as his wife and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a son. In all that time, he “did not know her” (Matthew 1:25, NKJV). This literally means “was not knowing her.” Ultimately, they did not have sexual relations during that time, although it suggests that they did afterward and had other children.

Very simply, Joseph refrained from any sort of sexual relations with his wife during that period. Many a man would have taken advantage of a situation no matter what to satisfy his own sexual desires.

It takes a disciplined man to restrain himself, lay aside his own wants, and put his wife ahead of his desires. Joseph was a disciplined man. 


He was a man who was sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit. he was able to hear from God and to be able to receive divine guidance from the Lord.

For him, the primary means of this communication seems to have been “dreams.” Four times he received dreams and words from the Lord. Interestingly enough, Joseph in the Old Testament was also involved with dreams).

  • An angel appeared to him in a dream with a word concerning Mary and the child in her womb (Matthew 1:20).
  • An angel appeared to him in a dream with a word to “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt” (Matthew 2:13).
  • An angel appeared to him in a dream with a word to return to Isreal (Matthew 2:20).
  • God warned him in a dream with a word to return to Galilee (Matthew 2:22).

He had a sensitivity to the voice of the Lord. Joseph was a spiritual man. 


Joseph had received revelation from the Lord through the means of dreams, and in turn, he responded in two main ways.

  • Joseph acted in faith (Matthew 1:21-22). Now put yourself in Joseph’s place. He was asked to believe that Mary was still a virgin. Mary too had to believe that her baby was conceived of the Holy Spirit and that there would be a virgin birth. However, she knew she had never had sex with any man. But think about Joseph. He could not prove her virginity. One could imagine the devil would whisper in his ear saying something like, “Don’t be silly, man. She must have had sex with someone else. It took faith on Joseph’s part to believe God’s word in a dream that the baby Mary was to bear would be by the Holy Spirit. Joseph was a man of faith.
  • Joseph acted in obedience. Time after time, when Joseph was given instructions, he always acted in obedience, usually immediately. Do you see the picture? God speaks (in Joseph’s case, through dreams), and in turn, Joseph acts immediately. Years ago, I came up with a saying regarding obedience to a revelation from God that we did not completely understand. It is simply this “Understanding can wait but obedience can’t.” Joseph was a man who acted in obedience.


We can learn a lot from the example of Joseph. We need to be: righteous people, compassionate people, disciplined people, spiritual people, and people of faith and obedience.

Even if we are supporting actors, we can be Joseph. Do all that God has called us to do and so fulfill our God-given destiny.