Sermons 2007
Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Advent 4A 2007 Matthew 1:18-25

The church I grew up in had a Christmas pageant every year. I was in the Junior Choir there, if you can believe it – I wasn’t invited to join the senior choir – or any choir since. But in that little church the centerpiece of the Christmas pageant was a reenactment of the birth of Jesus. Every year, all the boys wanted to play the part of Joseph in the pageant. -- something different from being a shepherd – and as we grew older one attraction was that only the prettiest girls got to be Mary.

Not that I really wanted to be in the Christmas Pageant. It was just that I KNEW I was going to be in the Christmas pageant, whether I wanted or liked it or not. I was in the Christmas pageant because it would make Mama happy. And anything that would make Mama happy was important to my father, and that made it the law.

Now, participants in the pageant were faced with the following possibilities: You could be a shepherd, in which case you had to make your entrance down one of the side aisles of the sanctuary, wearing something that looked suspiciously like a dress, to the accompaniment of the snickers of those friends who had escaped the pageant that year.

If you could sing (which I could, sort of, in those days), you could be one of the Wise Men. But you would have to wear a goofy-looking turbans on your head as you marched solemnly down the center aisle, with every one watching, singing "We Three Kings of Orient Are."

But you could get lucky and be Joseph, who had to do absolutely nothing except stand there, looking tired, gazing alternately at a very pretty Mary and the Babe in the manger. No lines to memorize, no songs to sing, no turban to wear. We saw Joseph’s role in the actual real nativity as very simple: he took Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem and made sure she was in the right place at the right time for Jesus to be born. Other than that, he was sort of just there.

The Gospels don’t tell us a lot about Joseph. There’s more space devoted to the Wise Men and the shepherds than there is to Joseph. Saint Matthew is the only one who has anything of substance to say about Joseph. For whatever reason, Joseph has never had more than a cameo role in the biggest Christmas pageant ever, the actual birth of Jesus. Joseph is the forgotten man in the Nativity scene.

But the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem is part of the Christmas story because of Joseph, whose family’s roots were in the lineage and city of David, Bethlehem. Saint Matthew tells us that Joseph was a just man, one who wanted to do the right thing by Mary. The law of ancient Israel could be harsh and cruel, especially to women. If a man discovered his fiancÚ was pregnant, the man could publicly expose her and destroy her reputation. Or he could break off the engagement quietly without a lot of fanfare and public involvement. This was what Joseph was planning.

But Joseph’s plans were changed by a messenger from God, an angel, who visited Joseph while he slept. The angel told Joseph in a dream to take Mary as his wife, that the incredible story Mary had told him about being made pregnant by the Holy Spirit to bear the Son of God was true!

As Saint Matthew tells us, "When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him." T Saint Joseph followed God’s order without question and without objection. He just got up and did it. This tells us a lot about Joseph. He was not only compassionate and just , he also trusted visions and insights, responding to the activity of God in mind and in heart. Joseph simply trusted and obeyed.

That’s why we look at Joseph closely this once. Joseph’s experience of things going wrong, not turning out the way they were planned, is a lot like our own experience. The difference between hope and despair is in whether we recognize that God is with us, really with us and always has been -- that we are not alone.

As we arrange the Nativity scene at home put the Wise Men and the shepherds around the Christ child, of course. But put Saint Joseph even closer. He’s earned his place there. Because Joseph – the forgotten one, who ‘s just sort of there and doesn’t seem to say or do much – this same Saint Joseph has much to teach us about the Christmas story, and about unwavering faith.

Once upon a time a long, long time ago, in a place far, far away, a child was born. Angels announced his coming both to his father and his mother. They told them to name him Jesus and that he would be called Emmanuel, God with us. And Joseph did as the Lord commanded.