Grace and peace to you all!
“Joseph, are you sitting down? I’ve got something to tell you.… I’m pregnant. But it’s OK, it’s by the Holy Spirit.”
Can you imagine what this conversation must have been like, between Mary and Joseph? Joseph’s heartbreak at his betrothed’s news? Mary’s worry that she’d be rejected, even stoned? The gospel doesn’t give us many details. It tells us that Joseph was a righteous man who wasn’t willing for Mary to be publicly humiliated for this unprecedented pregnancy. He stuck by her. We imagine him nine months later leading a donkey to Bethlehem, his ready-to-give birth fiancée perched on top, and standing protectively over the manger while shepherds and Magi look on adoringly.
What gave him the fortitude to do all this? Clearly he loved Mary deeply, and he was a good-hearted man. He had the sense to listen when angels came to him in dreams, and he was committed to doing the right thing, as well as he could figure that out.
This week I came across these lines in a poem by Lynn Bujnak, the Vermont UCC Conference Minister:
Joseph was a carpenter gifted by God with eyes
to look into the grain of a wood and see the
possibilities unfold – a table – a cart – a stool – a yoke.
Joseph was a carpenter who knew how to
smooth rough edges – make the crooked straight –
and the uneven level.
Ah, yes. Joseph’s trade – his calling – had taught him that how to find the potential in what others saw as an ordinary piece of wood. He’d learned to work with what was before him, using tools to smooth and shape, making what was needed from what was at hand. He brought all that experience to this newest challenge of embracing Mary and her unexpected news, to helping birth and then helping raise Jesus to adulthood. He did the best he could with the skills and tools he had. As all of us do.
At this Sunday’s worship we’ll be treated to a Christmas pageant by the Sunday School. Don’t miss it! And in the midst of the singing and angels and star and sheep, remember the message of Christmas: God comes to be born in us, ordinary people with ordinary lives and trades. And as we embrace God’s invitation in our lives, extraordinary things happen.
Come, Lord Jesus!