I ran the two mile slowly and came in dead last. Everyone else finished a few minutes before I did. And I won “Unsung Hero” because of it. Let me explain…
It was one of those track meets where all the teams in the league compete against each other: Boys at one location, and the Girls competed at another. Our team could win the meet if our best runner won the last two races: the two mile and the one mile. The problem is, the races were back-to-back. Normally, the girls would run the two mile after the boys, giving the boys time to catch their breath before the one mile began. This is where I come in.
I was a shotput and discus thrower, not a runner. But since we ran two miles every day during practice the coach knew he wasn’t asking for the impossible, but he also knew that I was way slower than everyone else in the race. So he put me in and said, “Mike, run slowly. Don’t try to finish fast, Andy needs time to rest if he’s going to have a chance to win the next race too.” Andy probably could’ve run the race twice in the time I took. But the plan worked, and we won the meet because Andy was fast and I was slow.
I didn’t win the race. But Andy wouldn’t have won both races without me… I got the “Unsung Hero” award and learned an important lesson about teamwork and setting others up for success.
I believe the biggest Unsung Hero of Christmas is Joseph. I’ve never heard a sermon about him, but think about this: God had the chance to choose his parents, and he chose Joseph and Mary. Clearly, they’re special and heroic people worth remembering.
Joseph Was a Godly Man (Matthew 1:18-21)
When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant he had every right to publically distance himself from her, but he didn’t. He wanted to protect her from public shaming, even when it looked like she cheated on him. But when the angel appeared to him and explained the situation Joseph believed God. It would have been so much easier to walk away from Mary, but he married her anyway. He knew it would be controversial, he knew people would talk about them behind their backs, he knew people would spread rumors.
Joseph Protected His Family (Matthew 2:13-15)
Egypt is the last place a Jewish family would go for protection! That’s where Israel was held as slaves for 400 years, they didn’t want to go back. Egypt symbolized slavery, not freedom. But God told Joseph to bring his family to Egypt in order to rescue them from Herod’s wrath. They became refugees, seeking asylum and safety from their government who was seeking to kill them. It was a risky and difficult decision to make, but Joseph packed up his family at night and hit the road because he trusted God would take care of them.
Joseph Was Faithful (Matthew 2:19-23)
When Herod died, the angel appeard again and told Joseph to bring his family back to Israel. Except they wouldn’t return where Joseph’s family lived, instead they would go to Nazareth. If there was a “Nowhere, Israel” it would be Nazareth! But that’s where Joseph led his family and they made a home for themselves there. It doesn’t seem like a huge decision that would change the course of history… but prophecy was fulfilled because of Joseph’s faithfulness.
Faithful in Small & Unexpected Ways
Joseph never performed a miracle. He wasn’t a prophet. He didn’t write a book of the Bible. In fact, it appears that he died while Jesus was still fairly young! But he set an example of godliness in small and unexpected ways. He took care of his family, just like every good father does. He obeyed God’s instructions that were delivered through the angel.
Because of Joseph’s faithfulness, Jesus grew in wisdom and in godliness. He played a support role in the greatest story of history. He is a true Unsung Hero: Joseph wasn’t the winner, but he set Jesus up to accomplish his mission – the salvation of God’s people.
God Uses People in the Background
One of the things I want to get across through this series is this: God uses people in the background.
- If you aren’t the captain of the team… God can still use you to lead the team to victory.
- If you don’t get recognition… God sees your faithfulness even when others don’t.
- If you feel forgotten… God can still use you in simple and unexpected ways to change the lives of people who get the recognition you never received!