"From the Pulpit" - Reflections on the Weekly Texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church
8 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
from our gospel for Sunday, Matthew 1:18-25
Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the LORD Jesus Christ.
Well, we're getting there. To Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, that is. Over the past few Sundays (Advent 1-3), we've heard from John the Baptist preaching in the desert, the prophet Isaiah, and others. We'll soon hear about Mary in the birth narrative of Jesus himself. But this Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Advent, we hear from Joseph. Yeah, right, remember him? Mary's betrothed? Joseph, listed in the lineage of Jesus himself, although not as the father of Jesus, but as the husband of Mary (check out Matthew 1:1-17.)
"So whatever happened to Joseph?" we ask often, as if we were trying to remember some movie star of old who was hot in his or her day, but faded from public view. "What does he add to the story of the birth of Jesus?" we ask. What did he do after this? Where was he in the crucifixion of his son on the cross? All these, and more, we ask about Joe. Right?
My message this week focuses on Joseph. Joseph, the good Jew who may seem like a bit player in the birth of Jesus. Joseph, who had no hand in conceiving a son. Joseph, who had no say in naming the child Mary was to bear. What if he had a preference like, say...Joseph, Jr.? Or Bert? Or Alex or something? But no. Just a bit player.
Joseph, I think, is essential to the story of Jesus because of his faithfulness to God's call in this story. He doesn't know quite what to do, how to respond, but he follows God's call through the angel. He could have dismissed Mary after having found she was pregnant, but like a good Jew, he stays with her, knowing that dismissing her would have left her vulnerable, just like any unwed mother the time. It would have been a death sentence for Mary.
Joseph is like so many of us, and so many of our friends in and around the church. Never drawing much attention to themselves. Never asking for or seeking attention or publicity. Never wanting much. But faithful in following God's call, even when it means not knowing exactly where that call will lead. What if he had known at the birth of Jesus that his son would be subjected to harassment, ridicule from the authorities and even his own people, or worse, crucifixion because the authorities and many of his own Jewish friends accused him of sedition - of claiming to be the Son of God?
But Joseph, not the father of Jesus, but just the husband of Mary, remains faithful. Doing what God had called him to do. Trusting that God had a plan for him and his small family. Don't we all know people in our lives just like Joseph? Faithful servants of a loving God? Not seeking attention but following God's call? Trusting that God had something wonderful, amazing, and unexpected in store for their faithfulness? Yes to all the above, I say.
So come tomorrow and listen to my message as I reflect on Joseph in the birth story of Jesus. Yes, next week we turn our focus on the coming of the Holy One, as it should be. But for this Sunday, our eyes and our attention are on Joseph. Come and see. Amen.
1. Giving letter - This week you should receive a letter from the church asking that you prayerfully consider a year end offering to the church. If you've been faithful in your giving, thank you. Maybe you've thought about giving, but just haven't gotten to it. Now may be a good time to do just that. In my letter, you'll see just some of the many amazing things this church does each year - the ministries we support, the people we pray for and minister to, and more. Thank you.
2. Christmas Eve worship - This coming Saturday, at 5:00 pm. Service of Holy Communion.
Christmas Day worship - Sunday at 10 am. There's a pot luck meal that follow worship on Sunday. Sign up in the lobby in the church.
3. Cookie Walk - I know you've seen the Cookie Walk covered in the Love Letter. But like making sausage, it's what's behind the scenes that makes this such an amazing event. Nearly 20 bakers this year, with dozens of delectable cookies. The church sold well over 200 pounds of cookies this year, in its over 20 years of doing this. It takes a lot of people not just to bake, but to set up, break down, organize, promote and carry out this amazing community-wide event. The crowd this year was the biggest in recent memory, according to all who helped out. Many thanks to all.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!'