Joseph, Jesus’ non-biological dad

The Christmas story can easily become familiar. Thousands of year later, summarised in carols, it can be easy to overlook the layers of meaning and lessons for us within the particular way in which the Word became flesh and blood and came to dwell among us.

Scott Hawkins shares about one particular character of the Christmas story who he personally relates to and provides some reflections from a unique perspective. 

It has been a special privilege for me to care for children through foster care and for my two boys in our permanent care. Being an Out-of-Home Care dad has informed and affected my faith in so many ways. It has deeply affected who I am, how I view the world, and how I understand my own adoption into the family of God. 

Out-of-Home Care provides direct experience and deeper understanding of what a difference adoption can make and the type of transformation that can happen in the life of a child in Foster Care, Kinship Care, or Permanent Care. It’s significant, like the type of transformation where the Bible talks about being transformed through the renewing of your mind, or the transformation that happens with our adoption into God’s family. 

One example is how I relate deeply to the story of Joseph as the non-biological father of Jesus. What did it mean for him to raise a son who he hadn’t conceived? What did it mean for him in the community when the community knew that he wasn’t the birth father? What did it mean for Jesus to be raised by this man and to have the values and skills that he took on from his dad, Joseph? 

On a practical level, Jesus was a builder because his dad was a builder. He took after his father and was raised to be like him, as children in Jewish culture were at that time. I have no doubt in my mind, that later when Jesus looked at a woman who was caught in adultery and acted with compassion, his response was influenced by his dad. I’m not disputing that his motivation and actions came out of his Godly nature and an understanding of who God is and how God treats all of us, but I believe his actions were mirroring the values that Joseph had taught him about his own mum. Joseph was a righteous man who did not want to disgrace Mary when she was found to be pregnant outside of marriage (Matthew 1:19). Jesus grew up knowing that his mum was being shunned by the community because of what they saw to be her shameful behaviour and they knew that Joseph wasn’t the father, so he was shunned because of that as well. Growing up in that environment would’ve affected Jesus and influenced the way that he treated other people. 

Foster Care is such a significant mission. It can change and transform lives. More than putting a roof over a child’s head and ensuring they have enough food to eat, providing home-based care can change the narrative and the trajectory of a life. We too can be transformed as we experience our own adoption into God’s family, influenced by His character and purposes in the world. 

We’re reminded by Joseph, of the role and influence of fathers, biological or not.

We acknowledge and honour non-biological parents stepping into hard or complicated spaces for the sake of children and young people.

We celebrate the generosity of our heavenly Father, adopting us as His own and bringing about transformation in us, so there might be transformation through us. 

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This article is based on a portion of an episode of the ARK Australia Faith and Fostering podcast featuring Scott Hawkins from Urban Life Church in Melbourne and has been used with permission.

The Homeward Project would love to partner with you to build a holistic ministry that makes a significant difference in the Out-of-Home Care space in your community. Find out more by emailing us at hello@homewardproject.org or downloading The Homeward Project Discovery Pack here.

Other Resources

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  • A foster care chaplain. Barb’s story

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