When you set up your nativity set for the Christmas season, one of the figures that is often not noticed, or is put off to one side, is Joseph.

Joseph is not featured in many Christmas songs either. But I believe that Joseph, in many ways, is the unsung hero of the Christmas story. Just as surely as God chose Mary to be the mother of the Messiah, He also chose Joseph. God the Father in heaven chose Joseph to be a stepfather, or father figure on earth, for Jesus!

The angel of the Lord came to Mary and revealed that the Messiah of Israel would be supernaturally conceived in her womb. Hearing Mary was pregnant, Joseph was willing to simply put her away quietly and break the engagement. He did not seem to be buying the whole “supernatural conception” idea. At least he was struggling with it, pondering a life without his dear Mary. But the angel of the Lord came to him too.

“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins’” (Matthew 1:20–21 NKJV).

Joseph could have walked away if he wanted. But to his credit, he stood by Mary and Jesus and, despite the shame, loved that Boy. Mary went through life with a “scarlet A” on her, in the eyes of many. And Joseph went through life being thought of as a man married to a promiscuous woman.

The irony of this is Mary was an extraordinarily virtuous and godly woman. On one occasion, the Pharisees essentially said to Jesus, “At least we weren’t born of fornication!” (see John 8:41). The implication of that statement is that Jesus was conceived out of wedlock.

But Mary bore this along with the death of her son on the cross. No, she was not perfect or sinless, nor should we pray to her or through her. But she was faithful to what God asked her to do.

And so was Joseph. He was chosen by God to be the stepfather of God in human form.

Just as surely as God chose Mary to be the mother of the Messiah, He also chose Joseph—a man who was not perfect or sinless, but faithful to what God asked him to do.