Did you know that St Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal is Canada’s largest church?  Did you know that St Joseph is one of Canada’s patron saints (along with st jean de brebeuf).  Also did you know that St Joseph or San Jose is the most common city name in the world? Or did you know that St Joseph is the patron to whom you pray to die a peaceful death?  Joseph, the Husband of Mary gets little notice along side his more famous family members. We know so little of Joseph …he is so rarely mentioned in the gospels, never speaks a word.  Yet,  what we do know says a lot. Allow me tell you his story… Long, long ago in a town called Nazareth there was a man from the line of David and born in the town of Bethlehem.  He was skilled in building and carpentry, well read in the Hebrew Scriptures and respected by all.  He became espoused to a girl by the name of Mary.  They were bound together in a contract of engagement and all looked forward to the nuptials in the coming months.  However, some months into the engagement Mary was found to be pregnant…Joseph was shocked.  Mary had broken the contract of engagement, she had broken Jewish Law, and she had broken faith with him and all those months they had been growing to know one another.  By right he could drag her to the towns gates and have her stoned to death.  He could send her to the town elders, the priests, and her parents and have her shamed publicly.  He was hurt, angry, and ashamed and did not know what to do…but Joseph was a righteous man, he read the Tanakh and knew of God’s mercy as well as God’s law.  Joseph resolved to walk the path of mercy rather than judgment and dismiss Mary privately, without the shame of public outcry of the judgment of stoning.   However, before he could tell Mary… he had a dream….a dream that told him Mary had not shamed either him nor herself.   That marrying her would not be marrying an adulterer, but that Mary was truly innocent.  Not only that, but the child she bore was divine and would be the savior of all people in accordance with the prophesies of Isaiah. Joseph had a lot to think about…whether he discussed this with Mary we don’t know.  Whether he prayed or offered sacrifice we don’t know, but Joseph was a righteous man and lived his life with God in mind and in the end he took Mary to wife.   and after the birth of her first son, Jesus, Joseph married her and they grew together having several children and becoming a family.  Joseph died while Jesus was still a youth, never seeing him begin his ministry as the Christ.  What Joseph never had …was proof that Mary’s first boy was indeed what they believed, the Christ…unlike Mary Joseph didn’t see the miracles and healings or the cross and resurrection.  Joseph died as he lived…a man of faith.   The story of Joseph is simple and yet complicated and there have been many attempts to fill it in, seeking to fill in the blanks around the patriarch of the holy family, …why he accepted Mary and why he died so early in Jesus’ life. What I find most intriguing is Joseph is his strength of faith…his faith in God and his faith in his very young wife to be.  Nazareth was a small town and small towns gossip, it must have been difficult for him to stay strong in his decision.  Joseph is as much an icon of faith as Mary is …a man who chose mercy and faith, over judgment and pride.  A man who loved his adopted or foster son, so clearly that later in life Jesus was known as Joseph’s son, despite the rumours that must have surrounded his birth.  How many of our decisions can we say we’ve dealt with in the same way? True, the situation that Joseph faced has never been equaled, but in our own lives we often have to decide if we are going to follow the paths of righteousness or follow the path of pride.  To do what is right in the face of public humiliation or ridicule.  To not hold resentment against those who have put us in such a position and to not hold a grudge.   Saint Joseph is an example for all of us of patience, faith and love. In our advent season this Sunday we celebrate love, the love that Christ has for us as shown in his incarnation and saving grace.  A love that would not be manifested, if not for the faith and love of Joseph who chose the righteous path instead of the path of judgment.    Capitol punishment was legal in this case at that time and Joseph would have been well within his rights and certainly some would have expected Joseph to go that route.  What was the consequences for Joseph were either way we’ll never really know, but there must have been some and they likely were tough to live with at times. How often do we think on the sacrifices that Joseph had to make for the holy Family to exist, as we know it?     And how often do we think of the incredible faith that Joseph showed?  A faith that sustained him and those around him through life and death. This week as we prepare for Christmas and all the insanity of family and business it brings…reflect on Joseph and the love he showed that enabled the Holy Family to live and grow in faith.   Getting to the Front of the Stable By Ann  Weems Who put Joseph in the back of the stable? Who dressed him in brown, put a staff in his hand, And told him to stand in the back of the crèche background for the magnificent light of the Madonna? God-chosen, this man Joseph was faithful in spite of the gossip in Nazareth, in spite of the danger from Herod. This man, Joseph, listened to angels and it was he who named the Child Emmanuel. Actually, Joseph probably stood in the doorway guarding the mother and child or greeting shepherds and kings. When he wasn’t in the doorway, he was probably urging Mary to get some rest, gently covering her with his cloak, assuring her that he would watch the Child. Actually, he probably picked the Child up in his arms and walked him in the night, patting him lovingly until he closed his eyes. This Christmas, let us give thanks to God for this man of incredible faith into whose care God placed the Christ Child. As a gesture of gratitude, let’s put Joseph in the front of the stable where he can guard and greet and cast an occasional glance at this Child who brought us life.