The Mute Saint

Rev Dr Mike Frost invites us to reflect on Joseph’s faithful response to the good news of God with us.


On the twenty-third day of Advent 2022, Rev Dr Mike Frost invites us to reflect on Joseph’s faithful response to the good news of God with us.

The Mute Saint


Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
   and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

                                                   Matthew 1:18-25


When we’re in pain, we cry out.

When we are filled with faith, we express it.

In fact, pain and faith are two of our most intensely voiced experiences. We have to talk them out.

In this passage, Joseph encounters both pain and faith in resolute silence. There is no cry of rage and anguish.

No howls of humiliation.

No declarations of faith.

No song of hope.

Joseph is the mute saint.

Firstly, there’s his pain. His betrothed is pregnant. The child is not his. The shame this would bring upon a man in such a society as his was enormous. He must have felt the hot rush of blood that courses through us when we are humiliated. Did he feel a howl of indignation rise in his throat? Publicly disowning the child and disavowing the woman would be the least most men would do. Legally, Joseph could have even had Mary stoned to death.

When a person experiences humiliation, it activates the same part of the brain that is affected by physical pain. In other words, public shame literally hurts. And pain makes us wail. In as patriarchal a society as Joseph’s, it would not have been considered untoward for him to shout out his rage, to lash out at Mary for disgracing him so.

But in his goodness Joseph is silent. He does not want to expose Mary to public scandal, so he resolves to divorce her. Quietly, of course. With Joseph everything is quiet.

But a dream is all it takes to change everything. 

A messenger appears to him in his slumber, explaining everything, backing up Mary’s outlandish story, and detailing his next divinely appointed steps.

When Joseph wakes, he is filled with the good news of God with us and an unspoken faith in his wife’s strange commission.

There is no song of Joseph. No declaration of faith. No clear statement of belief. Joseph simply does as he was told. 

For him, belief is action. Quietly, Joseph cared for Mary. 

He raised Jesus. He believed and acted.

And he never utters a word in all Scripture.

There’s much talk these days about the need to recover something called “biblical manhood.” I’m not quite sure what that phrase means exactly, but I suspect its proponents never think of the silent, loyal Joseph submitting himself humbly to his wife’s God-given calling.


Illustrator Matt Chinworth powerfully captures this image of Joseph in his illustration shared in Christianity Today. 



Rev Dr Michael Frost is an internationally recognised Australian missiologist and one of the leading voices in the missional church movement. His books are required reading in colleges and seminaries around the world and he is much sought after as an international conference speaker. Since 1999, Dr Frost has been the founding director of the Tinsley Institute, a mission study centre located at Morling College in Sydney, Australia.



This devotional is the twenty-third in a series of daily email devotionals for Advent 2022. This year's series reflects on the hope and joy of the good breaking in with the birth of Christ. 

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