It seems so appropriate to place the story of Jesus Christ at a back fence, in the care of a maiden and a carpenter, and within the walls of a dilapidated stable with a stain-encrusted manager. Christ came into the world bridging the huge space between humanity and divinity, pulling the seams of heaven tighter so that a thread or there might be accessible to the simple, the quiet, the needy and the poorest among us.
We know the story of Mary at least somewhat. We have her witness and her song. We know of her trip to Elizabeth’s home and the confirmation by Elizabeth and the yet unborn baby in her womb, John, who, at the sight of Mary and her condition instantly responded with a leap of joy. We know of Mary’s questions and her fears and the moment when fear became joy and uncertainty became witness. But of Joseph and his story, his song, little is known. What did he feel when he knew that the child that Mary carried in her womb was not his. [Let’s watch this-Joseph’s Song –Michael Card as seen on YouTube].
Joseph is only mentioned in the New Testament in the opening chapters of Luke and Matthew and unlike the Old Testament maiden/virgin references as to who would bear the Son of God, Joseph was not mentioned at all in the Hebrew scripture. We could wonder if Elizabeth and Mary voiced a concern for the peculiar circumstances in which God had placed Mary and, by virtue of a marriage contract, Joseph too. The unfairness of it all is overshadowed by how fairly and kindly Joseph responds to Mary as he first contemplates “dismissing her” but then, guided by God’s angel, stands protectively with her preparing the way for birth, for hope, for life…Joseph living out the image and character of God the father in this greatest story ever told.
In some ways, Joseph seems just the right person to assume the duties of caregiver and of earthly father to the baby Jesus. In fact, it all seems plausible, a gently laid out plan for assuring the world its needed savior…three ordinary individuals two of whom meet at a back fence and a third who enters the story through the door of a wood filled carpentry shed – all coming together in some glorious and mysterious way to insure that God’s foretold promise of redemption will be fulfilled.
So this is what we celebrate, this meeting of the ordinary with the extraordinary, this melding of human and divine natures coming together in hope for a better tomorrow. But, like every life changing experience, this one came with the pain of life itself…the pain of fear, the pain of birth, the pain of death. These human realities are most familiar to us too because of our own frailities. We know what this pain feels like. Into our world with all its anguish, illness, and evil, Christ chose to come to us. God came in a form we would understand and recognize, a form we would, at least initially, embrace, that of a child, an infant. God came to us to be with us, to offer us a comfort in life’s distresses and to give us hope when despair threatens to overwhelm us. Most definitely, with the horrific and latest gun slaughter in Newtown, we need to know that God is with us…Emmanuel. We are not alone.
And then we take one more step…from the comfort of just knowing God is with us, we are being called beyond this to ask the question, “what can I do? What are you calling me to O God? Where can I find my place in your story…what note in the song you sing shall I intone?” As Joseph might have sung, “Father, show me where I fit into this plan of yours.” Perhaps that is our prayer as well, “Father, show us where we fit into this plan of yours” – the message we will leave with today; the message whose answer might give us a clearer understanding of our purpose in God’s picture of life. This is the season of the ordinary becoming quite extraordinary – when God enters our world in Christ and invites us to be more than we might imagine we could be, but then again, look to Mary, a simple maiden in a backwater village, to Elizabeth, a barren woman who bears a prophet, and to Joseph whose faith song guides the first steps of his child, on loan by the hand of God, to be with us so we can be with God forever. Amen.