A newborn baby is always a source of wonder to family and friends. A new life is full of mystery, full of future, full of hope too. Everyone has their say in what that child will be like. And as the child grows, as his or her personality takes shape, the child will be referred to as “like father, like son” if it is a boy. In the time of Jesus, when talking about him, people used to say, “Isn’t he the son of Joseph the carpenter?”

One day I was visiting the Christmas cribs at the Oratory. They were created by many artists from over 100 countries. I was fascinated by the richness and variety of expressions with which these artists tell us about the father of Jesus. The cribs are eloquent testimonies of Joseph, the attentive spouse, the father full of kindness and tenderness, the man of faith, the one who takes up challenges with courage and determination.

In the humble crib in Nazareth, the artists revealed to me a Joseph holding the shepherd’s staff and carefully watching over the welfare of the child and his mother with solicitude. His heart beats only for them. They are his whole life. His love for them is unfailing.

With Mary, he trusts

Other artists show us Joseph holding the pilgrim’s staff. He is the one who, with Mary, set out to listen to his God and to carry out his wishes, even if he does not always see where this leads him. With Mary he trusts, with her he traces the way to Jesus. At times we feel him worried about the future of his son, at times he is in wonder before this new life. He gives thanks before the gift of God. We often find him in the attitude of the praying man, meditating in his heart, like Mary, the events through which God gives him a sign.

In other places, we see him discreet, silent, behind Mary, not wanting to overshadow the mother of the Savior, but assuring her of his support and solicitude, of his fidelity and love. There he is, the loving spouse, and his benevolent gaze speaks volumes about the bonds of complicity already established between him, the child and his mother.

Joseph is still the one who holds the lamp lit as if to enlighten: To enlighten our intelligence and our heart; to shed light on the beauty and greatness of the mystery of love of this God born of a woman. At other times, Joseph is delighted to see the shepherds, then people from everywhere, rushing to contemplate the newborn baby in whom they discover Immanuel, God with us, he the Light of the nations. Joseph willingly shares his happiness.

On a few occasions, Joseph is presented with arms loaded with wood or fruit. He is the one who cares about the first necessities of life for those whom the Lord entrusts to him. Brother André said that if God had chosen Joseph to care for those who were so precious to him, Jesus and Mary, we would have every advantage in entrusting ourselves to his care. “Going to Joseph”, he is powerful in the heart of God.

At the foot of the crib, discovering Joseph also means getting to know Jesus, the carpenter’s son, better. One reveals the other to us. May you, like me, have the chance to live this enriching experience and discover in a symphony of colors the many faces of Joseph, the father of Jesus, the husband of Mary.

Jean-Pierre Aumont, c.s.c.