The Forgotten Man of Christmas (book cover)

The Forgotten Man of Christmas

What do you do, when your much-younger wife to be, informs you that she is pregnant? What if you’re not the father? How do you handle the discussion, when she goes on to tell you that the father isn’t of this earth — that he is, in fact, God? And what if God sends an angel to speak with you and confirm what your bride to be had told you? And years later, what if that baby turns out to be the promised Messiah that had been foretold in more than 300 prophecies?

This the situation that Joseph, a not-so-spectacular, but honorable carpenter, found himself facing nearly 2,000 years ago. We all know what has been told to us of the famous event and what is presented in the four narratives of the Bible known as the Gospels (written, most likely in this order: Mark, Matthew, Luke and John).

However, the Biblical stories give us more information about the shephards and the animals in the manger scene, more about the angels, the Magi and their gifts, and more about the hunt for the newborn child by Herod, than it does about the eartly father of the infant Jesus. We know very little, if anything solid, about Mary’s husband.

Singled out by God to be, in fact, the adopted earthly father of Jesus, Joseph is known to us only as a dim figure in the background of the Gospel narratives. Yet his whole-hearted reconciliation to Mary, even in the face of possible slanderings by his neighbors, his complete self-sacrifice, when he left all and fled into Egypt to save the infant Jesus, are indicative that he was not unworthy to fulfill the great trust which was imposed upon him by his creator. In reality, this man, Joseph, has become, down through the ages, virtually ‘the forgotten man of Christmas.”

Downtown Church: The Heart of the City (book cover)

Downtown Church: The Heart of the City

Many in our day think that it is no longer possible to have big, strong, vital, influential, mission-minded downtown congregations. Those who predict the end of downtown churches will point to the suburbanization of Anglo populations, the erosion of inherited institutional loyalties, the decline of public transportation, the lack of interest by a younger generation in Sunday evening worship, the deterioration of central city public school systems, the fear of crime, the closing of downtown department stores with the rise of shopping malls, and so on.

While much can be learned about the failures of various downtown churches, more can be learned about the successful experiences. Today’s downtown church, therefore, must be competitive. Howard Edington has led a church that for a dozen years has excelled in offering an alternative to most of the lures in our society that compete for attention with the church. First Church is reaching new generations of people by being relevant to community needs, by becoming a credible partner with the government and the city, and by offering the good news with a message and program that is of the highest quality.

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