We’re almost there. The air is charged with excitement. Children can barely contain their anticipation. Cookies are flying out of stoves. Wrapping paper and gifts are coming together. Salvation Army bells ring out to remind us to care for our brothers and sister in Christ. These are the outward signs of the season – the season of hope. They point to that dream in which we have a place at the table; where people are taking care of each other; that there will be plenty for everyone and peace in the world at last.
During this time, I am reminded of the Joseph of the gospel story, the man who dared to dream. Tradition has decreed Joseph was an old man at the time of Jesus’ birth and that he died while Jesus was still young. In fact, we know nothing of him except these brief glimpses in the stories of the birth. Young or old, he is a bit of a mystery… and a surprise.
Even today, the news that one’s fiancée was pregnant prior to marriage would produce panic. In the time of Joseph, it was anathema. Yet, we learn at once that he was a decent, even kindly person who, upon learning this very news, made an honest attempt to do what was right. He did not plan to create a scene or a public scandal out of Mary’s condition, but intended simply to let the relationship go.
We are told that just when he had decided on this respectable, if sad, resolution of the situation, he was visited by a dream of a different world – the world as God would have it be. He came to understand in a profound and life- altering way that God was in this event. Joseph began to grasp that he was being called to fulfill a purpose far greater than he could ever have imagined for himself. In fact, what the humble carpenter had anticipated and what happened could not have been more different.
As we wait for the coming of this same Christ, we would do well to imitate Joseph – steady, decent, kindly, brave, and open to the word of God.
The Reverend Susan N. Eaves