Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
Blue Christmas Service
December 21, 2015
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
As I looked for the perfect story to share about darkness during the Holiday season, it dawned on me there is no greater story of light in the darkness than our Christmas story. We have all heard the miracle of Jesus’ birth, to the one they called blessed, Mary. How there was no room at the inn, so this King of kings was born in a manger as shepherds watched their flock by night. Then that bright star shown over all the land, shining light into darkness of the night leading the wise men to the new born king.
It is a wonderful narrative, but I am left wondering about Joseph. He doesn’t say a single word in scripture and is often forgotten or place behind the scene with Mary and Jesus out in front. Joseph for lack of a better word is Jesus’ step-father. Joseph as the third wheel, is trying to do what is right and loving, having a significant role but often forgotten.
Throughout scripture not a single word is spoken by Joseph. He is silent. There have been times in my life when I have felt silenced, or when I have been on the outside looking in, when I’ve been told by family or society that I am in some way not enough. There have also been times when I have lost a dear loved one and words cannot express my sorrow. In either situation I was experiencing a deep loss and grieving. Might have Joseph also been grieving? We think of Mary as having her world turned upside down by delivering Jesus, but so was Joseph’s. His life plans were changed. He likely would have grown up in this patriarchal society, believing he would be live into an arranged marriage to a woman who then would bare his first born son.
This silent carpenter, the descendant of David and Jesse, is ready to dismiss Mary quietly, so she as well as he would not exposed to public disgrace. But as soon as Joseph decides to divorce Mary an angel of the Lord comes to him in a dream and says: “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. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from this sins.” (v. 20-21). When Joseph awoke from his dream he did as the angel commanded him. Joseph’s actions are miraculous because “the birth of the first born son was all important and crucial [during this time] to the family line and property transfer. The fact Joseph is prepared to give up the right to sire his own first born son and accept and even name [the baby] Jesus (Yeshua/Joshua means "Yahweh saves") says a lot about the character of Joseph.” Joseph was a righteous man (v.19).
There are several miracles in this narrative. One being an angel coming to Joseph in his dream. The angel came to Joseph while he slept in the darkness. He was in a dark time literally and figuratively, asleep when the angel came to him. How hopeful and wonderful is that? God was there with Joseph in his dark days and Joseph was open to hearing God. That is the second miracle, that Joseph had the faith to believe and listen to that dream. “Mary’s faithfulness allows Jesus to be born as the Son of God, but Joseph’s faithfulness makes the way for Jesus to be born into the line of David, which is what was promised over and over. And Joseph didn’t feel a baby moving inside him. Joseph didn’t get the full-blown angelic visitation. Joseph had a dream and then moved in faith, believing that somehow, in some way, he was doing what God wanted. Joseph raised Jesus in righteousness and taught his son what he knew of the law and the prophets.”
Joseph’s movement or action is the third miracle I see. He was a model of faithful in action despite doubt and fear. Buddhist Nun Pena Chӧdrӧn says, “The most important aspect to being on the spiritual path may be to just keep moving”. Joseph kept moving, he moved with Mary to Bethlehem for Jesus to be born, then when Herod went searching for Jesus, Joseph again listened to the angel of God and took action and moved to Egypt (Matthew 2:13).
Joseph might have been silent throughout scripture but he was listening. Listening, is one of the hardest things to do. In conversation, most people are just listening for the cue on when they can speak again. Our society is so over programmed and tuned in that we are really tuned out. When was the last time you sat in the stillness or quiet, or remembered your dream from the night before?
Joseph listened, he listened to his dream which was divine communication. As the UCC says, God is still speaking, but are we listening? Dreams could be one way God or a loved one who has passed is still talking to you, but are you listening?
When the time came for Jesus to be born, Joseph stood by the manger. He waited for Emmanuel, for God to come and be with us, and heal us and him. Although there was no room in the inn, Joseph created room for God and Jesus, within him. We have all been hurt or have holes in our hearts and need healing. Pema Chӧdrӧn states in her book When Things Fall Apart, “healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” Joseph created room for God to enter.
Feeling forgotten or alone, on the outside looking in, seeing other families having a joyful time, or standing on the outside of the manger wishing you were a part of that inner family circle, this longing for healing or the feeling that someone or something is missing; I imagine this was how Joseph felt, seeing and hearing the joy of Mary and Elizabeth, the wise men coming to visit and all of those around him, all the while having a void. One foot in and one foot outside of the circle.
So what can we learn from Joseph, this man of few words? We can learn to listen for God and find comfort in knowing God works through all of us even in our darkness. God came to Joseph in a dream and then in the birth of Jesus and today God still comes to us, even in our darkest of days. God comes and shines some light, it is our job to have faith, listen and recognize the light. Maybe the light on this the longest of nights, comes through your window in the brightest of stars reminding you of your loved one who have passed away. Or maybe it is in a butterfly or the smell of homemade cooking, perhaps it is in the smile of a baby that has your sister or mother’s smile. Wherever you see or hear the light, trust and know that it is Emmanuel, for God is with you. Because your loved one and God’s steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1b)
Witherington, Ben “Commentary on Matthew 1:18-25 retrieved December 15, 2015. https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=779
 Lutheranjulia, “Narrative Lectionary: Dreams and Adoption, Rooted in Faith” Posted December 16, 2014. http://revgalblogpals.org/2014/12/16/narrative-lectionary-dreams-and-adoption-rooted-in-faith/
 Chӧdrӧn, Pema. When Things Fall Apart. (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1997), 15.
 Chӧdrӧn, Pema. When Things Fall Apart. (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1997), 8.