Tuesday, December 23, 2008

take a bow, Joe!

Please read Matthew 1:24-25

You usually find him stuck back in the corner of the crèche set. He may be kneeling, he may be wtanding, he may appear as if he has a rather stunned look at his face. And in the Christmas pageant at most churches, he never has any lines to say, never gets a solo, never has the wpotlight turned on him.

Poor Joseph.

And how much poorer we are, because we believe that Joseph has no role to play, no big part, nothing to say or sing during these holiest of days. Oh, we convince ourselves that we don't need to pay any attention to him, or should, because (we whisper behind our hands as his neighbors probably did) he's not really the father of the Child. He is just a bystander, a person to ignore, a character actor who appears just for a moment, and then is forgotten.

But is there any better person to model trust for us? Sure, he could have easily dismissed what had been told him one night as a dyspeptic dream caused by all the rich food at the office party. Yet, Joseph saw it as his calling, and decided that he would do whatever it was God was asking him to do. And couldn't we use a little more trust in our lives, in our communities, in our world, in our churches right now?

And his courage? To stand up to family, friends, drinking buddies, and probably even strangers who had heard only the gossip (but based their beliefs on those whispered words), and simply way, perhaps over and over, 'whatever. I stand by Mary. I believe her, I love her, I will marry her, I will help her to raise this child.' Don't we need to be reminded that courage is a trait that we need as we move into those unknown moments of our lives - a new job, a new year, children, retirement, downsizing?

What about his lifelong commitment to Mary, to Jesus, to the rest of the kids who came along? He could have become an absentee father, he could have been one of those dads constantly being searched for to pay child support. But he goes about his job, working long hours, providing for Mary and the family, helping to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. He reminds us of our calling to get up out of bed each morning, and simply go about doing all that day-to-day stuff we do as mothers and fathers, as teachers and volunteers, as friends and neighbors - all those little, insignificant tasks we take on, while standing in the background, no one noticing us, but making all the difference in the world to someone.

This year, let's reach back into that shadowy corner of the crèche where we have stuck him, and move Joseph up to the manger where he belongs.

Prayer: With angels singing, the shepherds rejoicing, the wise ones gifting, it is easy to overlook Joseph, Everlasting Father. But since he is the one who most resembles us, we give you thanks for his trust, his courage, his loyalty, his role in this holy story. Amen.

(c) 2008 Thom M. Shuman

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