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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- What about Joseph?

Sunday, December 23- What About Joseph?

Isaiah 7:10-16
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-25

This Sunday, we move closer to the Christmas Narratives.
And in the Matthew reading, we get to know a little bit more about Joseph.

What about Joseph? We don't talk about him very much, do we?

A friend of mine says, “When setting up our nativity scenes sometimes we put Joseph by the sheep until the process of elimination has us realize that the fourth shepherd over there by the pine cone is actually the father of the baby. Such a thing would NEVER happen to Mary. She is always carefully and immediately placed kneeling by the side of the manger. There are practically entire religions designed around Mary, the mother of the Christ Child, but there are not too many confessional standards based on the character of Joseph."

And so this week, I'm thinking about Joseph.

J. Barrie Shepherd, poet and preacher, writes:
(Shepherd, J. Barrie. Faces at the Manger. Nashville: Upper Room Books, 1992.)

“The hardest task
The most difficult role of all
That of just being there
And Joseph, dearest Joseph, stands for that.
Don’t you see?

It is important,
crucially important,
that he stand there by that manger,
as he does,
In all his silent misery
Of doubt concern and fear.
If Joseph were not there
There might be no place for us,
For those of us at least-
So many- who recognize and know-
That heartache, for our own,
Who share that helpless sense
Of lostness, of impotence
In our own lives, our families, our jobs
In our fearful threatened world this night.
Yes, in Joseph’s look of anguish
We find our place;
We discover that we too
Belong beside the manger:
This manger in which are met
God’s peace and all our wars and fears....
Let us be there,
Simply be there just as Joseph was,
With nothing we can do now,
Nothing we can bring-
It’s far too late for that-
Nothing even to be said
Except, ‘Behold- be blessed,
Be silent, be at peace.’

Joseph, son of David,
‘Do not fear,’ the angel said.
And Jim and Alice, Fred and Sue,
Bob and Tom and Jean and Betty too,
The word to you, to all of us
Here at the manger side,
The word is also, ‘do not fear.’
Our God, the Lord and Sovereign,
Maker of heaven and earth,
Time and eternity,
Of life and death and all that is
And shall be,Has joined us in this moment…,”

So. I'm thinking about Joseph this week. What's on your mind?

And, if you are thinking ahead a bit, what are your plans for preaching on Christmas Eve?


  1. Beautiful poem. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Beautiful poem. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. That is a lovely poem. Thank you. And I am preaching on the line in Matthew from the dream: "and you are to name him Jesus."

    I know that the parents shard in the duty of naming, but it is interesting that the name comes to Joseph. He gets Adam's job of naming what God has given. It's a replay of a way.

    Then again, I may be making too much of it.

  4. Not preaching this week--children's Sunday so the kids have the whole shebang. But if I was, it would be a discussion of Joseph.

  5. Oh, I like the poem. I may use it Sunday, because I'm thinking of Joseph. I have a sermon from some time back that I'm pondering reusing...dunno yet.

    And I'm planning Christmas Eve service today, but there won't exactly be a sermon. It will be (sort of) a lessons & carols kind of service, but I'm trying to think of a good way to tie all the strings together.

  6. I have been working towards both SUnday and Monday this morning.

    Sunday is talking about chaos and calm. I will assume Joseph's voice and talk about the chaos and calm he found.

    Monday is light in the darkness. No sermon really. I will be adapting a children's book I have called "A Candle for Christmas" at one point and writing a monologue/story about a man in a blackout facing his fear of darkness (real and metaphorical).

  7. I'm looking at Joseph, too. And pondering Bruce Prewer's sermon on "Holy Mongrels" here:

    Sorry can't seem to link it today...

    I may well use the poem as well.

    And as for Christmas Eve--I'm doing the earlier, "family" service, Host Church Pastor is doing the later one. Mine is lessons and carols, with the "meditation" being a children's time, a retelling of the story using figures from the creche. I wan to bring them from various places around the sanctuary, or have various children bring them up, but I don't know the children from that congregation very well. I may have them "find" the figures in various places around the chancel. Still thinking that one through.

  8. I'm also preaching about Joseph. Tripp, I don't think you're making too much at all. I'm interested in his connection to that other Joseph, the great interpreter of dreams. If we were to believe in dreams instead of focusing always on the practical realities in church life, what might the church do and be? Joseph and his dreams, his trust in the angels, his connection to the fathers and mothers of his faith--all that is fascinating and fertile territory. I wish I had a firmer sense of where I'm going with it, but Joseph and his dreams are my beginning point.
    For Christmas Eve, I'm working on a brief reflection on "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," particularly on the idea of God coming to dwell with us, as one of us. Only the greatest love could inspire such a thing!

  9. Love the poem, thank you. We are having our Children and Youth-led Christmas Pageant. I am always looking for new ideas for those, so I've posted my reader's copy of the order of worship, thinking it might help someone else next year. Youth read the narratives and share special music and dance (I hope!) Young children will be dressed as any character they choose in the Nativity, and will come forward to take their place up front. You can find it here.

  10. Oh, songbird, I agree. Could we just dream once again? (Me too?)

    And Rainbow Pastor, now you have me thinking of bringing figures up to the creche....hmmmm...they are kind of delicate, still...

  11. We discussed the Matthew reading in EfM online last night - and someone asked about the Cherry Tree Carol has very human Joseph still struggling with the idea of Mary not pregnant by him in a early version. The idea of dreaming Josephs appeals to me.

  12. Well, I'm cheating this week. Since we cancelled services on Sunday b/c of the storm, we are going to do almost everything this coming Sunday that we were going to do last Sunday, incl. my sermon on the Magnificat. We have a couple of additional musical pieces that will be added in the service, but otherwise everything else remains the same. It's a nice relief for dh and me, b/c it means we can host his mother and brother this weekend without one of us feeling under the gun about sermon prep.

    We never get to preach on Christmas Eve, b/c our congregation has a 35-year history of doing the King's College Lessons and Carols. The church has never had a sermon or meditation as a part of that service, and we have always understood it is a service that mustn't be tampered with. So, one less prep for us, I guess....

  13. Songbird,

    Yes! Dreaming...Now that is a good way to take it. Thank you. Dream upon dream...this is the center of our faith: Listening to dreams.

    Wow. Thank you for that connection.

  14. Not preaching this Sunday, the Deacon is...but we spoke about the readings and the idea of preaching on dreams and dreaming - it's a good theme, I think, as several of you have already mentioned.

    I will preach Christmas Eve...not sure where I am going with it yet...haven't really had time to think about it...

  15. I have been inspired this week by a phrase from an Iona Community prayer, that God "crept in beside us"--what that means, what that looks like, how we make room in our comfy beds (I mean, uh lives) for someone like God to creep in beside us in the night. What kind of sacrifice is involved? What good comes? How might we do it? I'm using both Isaiah and Matthew--Isaiah to talk about the king's false piety actually crowding out rather than making room, and Matthew to talk about Joseph making room in his vision of his family, his life, etc.

    Christmas Eve I am doing a three-section meditation...sort of lessons-and-carols style, but I am in charge of "Christmas Unplugged" which is the less formal service. I'm thinking of using some Iona community stuff for the first one, possibly some Barrie Shepherd for either the second or third (I really like this poem, and I know there are others I adore as well...choosing is the hard part!), and the other will likely be my own creation (unless Ann Weems steps up to the plate...). We'll see how that goes as it gets closer! :-)

  16. Long ago when I planned out Advent, I had chosen the duo of "named" and "nothingness" to focus my preaching on this Sunday. This element of being named, and how a name can make something real that was not real before. (And how we get TWO names today..."Immanuel" in Isaiah and "Jesus" in Matthew.)

    But I want to talk about dreams, too! Especially after the comments here. I do really love this Joseph story.

  17. I am fascinated with how Joseph lives out his faith in a quiet way. He is a righteous man, but that doesn't mean he's legalistic. He applies grace to his relationship with Mary even though she's apparently hurt him. Also, Joseph means "to add." When Rachel gave birth to Joseph she named him that asking God to add another son to her. Now this Joseph adds a Son, by protecting Mary and baby Jesus.

  18. I went the "what about Joseph" route last year with the Matthew story, essentially zeroing in on the level of faith it entailed for him to care for Mary with God's reassurance.

    This Sunday I'm dealing with Ahaz and Isaiah. My jumping-off point is from Borg and Crossan's The First Christmas, where Borg shares a story about the first time he realized as a child that in Joy to the World we sing "the Lord IS come" rather than "the Lord HAS come," and how Ahaz may have been a guy who wanted to sing the latter so that he wouldn't have had to look for the sign of Immanuel.

    Christmas Eve I talk about the baby Jesus being an incredibly impractical gift, but one that we still need.

  19. Thinking about Dreamers made me remember Kermit the Frog and The Rainbow Connection. The lovers, the dreamers and me.

  20. I am not preaching, but Joseph always strikes such a chord for me, as another step-parent.

    I'm sure Jesus never said, "You're not my REAL Dad!" or any of that crummy teenager stuff. But what a painful sense of not belonging Joseph must have had at times...and he stayed the course anyway.

    Blessings on those who prepare and those who preach.

  21. MaryBeth, have you read Lamb? (by Christopher Moore) It's all made up, of course, but quite hilarious nonetheless. In it Jesus does actually whip out a couple of "you're not my father" comments, and the way Joseph responds is almost exactly how I imagine it would go--based on the way Matthew 1 goes. It's pretty interesting, to think about.

  22. I'm preaching Joseph this week since I preached Mary last week... equal time and all that...

    In his book "He Still Moves Stones" Max Lucado has a chapter titled 'Joseph's Prayer' that is captivating. I wanted to share a couple sentences from his prayer:
    'I'm a carpenter. I make things fit. I square off the edges. I follow the pumb line. I measure twice before I cut once. Surprises are not the friend of a builder. I like to know the plan. I like to see the plan before I begin.
    'But this time I'm not the builder, am I? This time I'm a tool. A hammer in your grip. A nail between your fingers. I chisel is your hands. This project is yours, not mine....'

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  24. Trying again --- Templeamma - I love that reflection by Joseph.

  25. Ohh . . . thanks for the poem. That is just the spring board that I needed for a sermon on Joseph. I am also interested in how the "right thing to do" was to divorce her and he didn't.

  26. since I am looking at Chaos vs calm my take on Joseph is a little different this year. But you can read it here

  27. That was beautiful!

    I have a hard time identifying with Joseph. I am more mystical like Mary, pondering, reflecting, waiting and feeling the joy of anticipation.

    Thanks for making sure I don't forget that he was there, too!

  28. Hubbie has themorning service Sunday, Father-in-law is preaching on Joseph Sunday Evening. So that leaves me with Christmas Eve. They don't normally have a sermon, but to heck with tradition! I'm preaching the traditional text, but I'm going to talk about the possiblity that Mary and Joseph were not alone in the stable. Josephs family would have had to be registered as well so they all would have made the trip to Bethlehem just as they all trecked to Jerusalem when Jesus was a boy. The main idea being that God didn't come just to two lonley souls with strangers for company, but that he arrived in a community. A family with women to help with the birth and men to hold Joseph upright. This birth was not isolated and alone, but happened within a community. Christ does not just come to each of us, but comes to the community as a whole,to bring us all together united as the family of God.
    At least that's what I'm thinking righ tnow.

  29. I too am fascinated by the dream imagery. Dreams are a common way God communicates in Scripture; yet the reason of the Enlightenment has stripped away common belief that this is a way God speaks. I know of a Pastor in Wisconsin, John Sumwalt, who collects and publishes stories of people dreams and visions. He estimates 30% of folks have had such an experience. Most never have told anyone else, for fear they will be considered crazy. Wouldn't it be awesome to have community of faith that believes God voices comes in dreams and visions?

  30. I've been turning to this site for a while . . . but haven't commented before. What a gift to find a gathering of women preachers!

    My admiration for Joseph this year has grown so deep. What faith and courage to actually act on that voice of God! What if we all managed to believe so deeply that when God nudged us, whispered to us in the night, moved our hearts . . . and usually with something that was somehow 'outside the box' . . . what if we all had the courage to act on it? What might be born into our world today?

    Christmas Eve - I was so moved this year as I set up our multitudinous creches in this household. Each one visualizing God as "one of us". I have one from Africa, one from Bethlehem, one of Eskimos, another with teepee Native Americans from the plains. And, of course, the old family one in which Mary and Jesus are both actually strawberry blonds! "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among US" God as us.

    Still needs lots of work . . . but that's where I'm headed.


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