On playing second fiddle

Continuing my series on ‘tales of the unexpected’ I am preaching on Joseph this Sunday morning. The more I think about it – the more enigmatic I find him. He has none of the panache and colour of his Old Testament namesake with his fancy clothes and his dangerous dreams. If anything, the Joseph of the nativity story seems a little pale and insipid.  My perplexity over Joseph has been further compounded by this week’s lively discussion of him on the natwivity– where he seems to have been cast as everything from a useless man to an unlikely hero.

It is worth taking a little time to review the artistic depictions  of Joseph over the centuries. Some show him just one step removed from the action but still sharing Mary’s heavenly glow. Others have him lingering in the wings,as if unsure of his role. In his beautiful nativity scene below (painted in 1310) Giotto has gone one step further and placed him to the left outside the stable, and looking glum to boot!


So what are we to make of him, and what can we learn from him?  Julie Wilkinson  has helped so much here by talking about Joseph from her perspective as an adoptive parent. In her sensitive and insightful post she brings out the qualities of restraint and loyalty which he shows early on and the courage which he later shows. Basically, he is an example of doing graciously what must be done when it must be done.

Last year I wrote a post on those times when playing ‘second fiddle‘ really is best. Maybe Joseph’s role in the great story of Jesus’ birth is one of those times.

Last word goes to U A  Fanthorpe here, in her haunting little poem ‘I am Joseph‘:

I am Joseph, who wanted

To teach my own boy how to live.

My lesson for my foster son:

Endure. Love. Give