Christmas at the Carpenter’s

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:15-20)

In just a couple of weeks, we will celebrate Jesus’s second appearance to all of humankind that first Christmas morning.

As you fix your eyes on the baby in the manger, I would encourage you to expand the aperture to view the rest of the scene. Take a moment to focus not just on the newborn king, but also on the home he was born into and what that meant for Jesus’s future work.

From the very beginning of time, God knew that He would have to send Jesus to earth to ransom us. Knowing this—and knowing the ultimate purpose of Jesus’s life on earth—the fact that God chose for Jesus to grow up in the home of Mary and a carpenter named Joseph should stop us in our tracks.

God could have placed Jesus in a priestly household like the prophet Samuel or John the Baptist. He could have grown up in the household of a Pharisee like the Apostle Paul. But instead, God placed Jesus in the household of a craftsman, doing work that likely looked very similar to the work you and I do today.

Biblical scholar Dr. Ken Campbell has pointed out that the Greek word tektōn that most of our Bibles translate as “carpenter” in Mark 6:3, would more accurately be translated as “builder,” someone who “worked with stone, wood, and sometimes metal” to create new things. According to Dr. Campbell, Jesus and Joseph essentially operated a family-owned small business, “negotiating bids, securing supplies, completing projects, and contributing to family living expenses.”

Sound familiar? It should. In first-century Jewish culture, it was likely artisans and craftspeople like Jesus and Joseph whose work looked most similar to ours.

That truth gives great dignity and meaning to the work you and I do to rearrange creation each day. If you ever doubt that your work matters or that your calling is just as significant as that of a pastor or “full-time missionary,” remember Christmas. Remember that that little baby would grow up to roll up his sleeves and remind us of the goodness of work.


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