Six months ago, our family was in Bogota, Colombia finalizing our adoption of our son Ezekiel. One day we walked from our apartment to a little grocery store for some fresh fruit. I don’t know about you, but shopping with five children stresses me out a bit, so once we picked out everything we needed I took our crew of kiddos outside and waited on the sidewalk while my wife Holly paid for the groceries.
As I stood there with our five children, a parking lot attendant walked towards me and said “todos tus hijos?” (are these all your children?)
Holly and I both have been asked questions like this before. You can’t have more than two children in 21st-century America without being occasionally subjected to shocked stares or comments like “you know what causes that don’t you?”
So I smiled at the parking lot attendant and answered, Si. Yes, these are all my children.
He looked at me, somewhat confused, and tried again. “Todos?” (all of them?).
I looked at him and smiled and answered Si again.
He looked at me again. Then looked at my children one by one. By this point I knew what this man was thinking. One of these kids was not like the other. Finally, he looked at Ezekiel and pointed at him. “Y el?” What about him?
I smiled again and told the man in broken Spanish that Ezekiel was my son through adoption. The man finally understood. In a moment of political incorrectness that may be normal for parking lot attendants in Bogota, the man told me he had been confused because Ezekiel’s skin was much darker than everybody else’s in my family. Ezekiel’s story didn’t make sense until he understood it was an adoption story.
Whether we realize it or not, I think many of us think of the characters in the Christmas story the same way that man in Bogota thought about my family. One of these things is not like the other. There’s baby Jesus, who of course is the central figure of the Christmas story. Then there’s Mary, from whom Jesus is born. The angel is important because he tells Mary what to expect and why she’s expecting. The shepherds remind us that Jesus came for the lowly and the outcast. The wise men remind us that Jesus is a king worthy of worship. Even the manger is significant because it shows us that Jesus is an unlikely king.
But what about Joseph? Does he really matter to the story? Is Joseph sort of like Indiana Jones in The Raiders of the Lost Ark? You’ve heard that criticism, right? That everything that happened in the movie would’ve happened whether Indy was there or not. Is Joseph even necessary to the Christmas story? This week on the blog I want you to see that Joseph is more than a walk-on character in the drama of the Christmas story. He’s more than an usher that gets Mary to Bethlehem, to Egypt, and then to the temple in Jerusalem a decade later. Joseph’s story makes sense when you understand it’s an adoption story.