Joseph’s Wonderful Life

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel. – Isaiah 7:14

Every year, the readings for the fourth Sunday of Advent remind us of the good news that the Jewish people had/have long known because it was foretold by the Hebrew prophet Isaiah – a savior was going to be born of a virgin, and he would be king of all.

And each year when I hear these readings, I immediately think about Mary, and her surprise visit from the Angel Gabriel telling her the shocking news that she was going to be the mother of this Emmanuel. Because I have a granddaughter who is 13-1/2, I can easily picture the look on Mary’s face because I can picture the look on Addie’s face. And I always remind myself that rather than saying, “Let me think about it,” or “Let me look at my calendar and see what I have going for the next nine months,” Mary just said, “Yes.” Oh, she expressed an appropriate amount of confusion about the fact that she was going to bear a child even though she was a virgin, but after getting angel-based clarification, she said, “Yes, I will take on this responsibility.”

But while I use Mary as my model for how to turn my life over to God, I rarely think about Joseph, and his role in this marvelous story of grace.

Last week, I mentioned in a post that I watched the movie It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time ever. In the movie, George Bailey – played marvelously by Jimmy Stewart – had his life planned out. He was going to travel. He was going to make lots of money. He was going to leave his crappy little town and live a rich and elegant life with his wonderful wife someplace new and exciting. But, things just kept creeping up that prevented his imagined life to happen in the way he had planned. And finally, just as he had given up hope, he learned the valuable lesson about what is important in life.

At Mass yesterday, our homilist reminded us that Joseph, too, had quite a rude awakening when he learned that his bride-to-be Mary was pregnant, and he knew HE wasn’t the father. But rather than publicly humiliating her, he quietly set out to end the relationship in a way that would be less embarrassing to her and her family. And then, the Angel Gabriel (who seemingly had quite a busy few days) told Joseph in a dream to not freak out because she is with child via the Holy Spirit, and in fact, she is going to give birth to the Son of God and the savior of all.

Like George Bailey, I would imagine that Joseph had his life planned out as well. He and his young bride would marry, kids would soon come along – maybe some sons who could learn the carpentry business and help him, and a daughter or two who would help his wife with her hard work – and they would live a quiet and joyful life in their community of Nazareth. Maybe he would run for mayor. Eventually their children would marry and have kids, and he and Mary would be grandparents, at which time they could feed their grandkids all of the sugary figs they wanted and send them home on a sugar high, like all good grandparents do.

But just as soon as he had that dream, Joseph knew his life wasn’t going to go the way he wanted it to go. God had other plans for he and Mary. And, like Mary, he didn’t Google flights out of Jerusalem, but instead, said, “Whatever you say, God.”

The children from Wellshire Presbyterian Church performed a living nativity Sunday night in the frigid weather. The little shepherd kneeling in front is Maggie Faith. The shepherd behind her wearing glasses is Dagny. Addie is the wise man wearing the gold robe. Dagny and Maggie chose to be shepherds because, well, live goats were involved.

The children from Wellshire Presbyterian Church performed a living nativity Sunday night in the frigid weather. The little shepherd kneeling in front is Maggie Faith. The shepherd behind her wearing glasses is Dagny. Addie is the wise man wearing the gold robe. Dagny and Maggie chose to be shepherds because, well, live goats were involved.

According to St. Matthew, Emmanuel means God is with us. And so the very name of Jesus means that he is with us always, even when it seems he couldn’t possibly be further away. He is within us. We just need to get out of his way and let him lead us.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Healing Power of Love

Girl Cousins

Amazing granddaughters!

Once in a while, something will just stop me in my tracks. Even if I’m sitting down, it will feel like I’ve been knocked over. That happened to me a couple of weeks ago at Sunday Mass. Bill and I were sitting in the row second from the front. A few minutes before Mass began, a family of five came and sat in front of us. The family included a thirty-something mom and dad, and three children – a boy of about 5, a girl of about 2 or 3, and a baby girl of about 6 or 7 months. Mom and Dad ran quite a tight ship. They required the boy to genuflect and kneel, and didn’t let the older girl get away with much giggling or naughtiness. Pay attention to the priest was the message they seem to be getting from Mom and Dad.

It didn’t take long before I realized that the baby girl, dressed to the nines in pink ruffles and wearing the large pink bow so fashionable among the baby set these days, had Down Syndrome. Being the grandmother of nine perfect grandchildren, I did two things. I thanked God for those perfect grandchildren, and then quickly followed up with a prayer for the family sitting in front of me.

But for the rest of Mass, I couldn’t stop thinking about that family. Here’s what struck me: Either the woman had the prenatal test, learned that the child she was carrying had Down Syndrome, and she and her husband chose to have the baby despite this condition; or the parents elected to not even have the test, knowing that they would have the baby no matter what. Either premise gave me great pause.

During my own pregnancy, and then during the pregnancy of each of my daughters-in-law, I held my breath until such time as the test came back with a positive result. I have never let myself think much about what choices I would make or support should the situation be different. What I do know, however, is that those two parents who sat in front of me at Mass were remarkable and brave and undoubtedly have great faith in God.

That was several weeks ago, but I remembered that family Sunday during the readings at Mass. All were about God’s power of healing.

While listening to the readings – Isaiah’s prophecy of a savior who would clear the ears of the deaf and make the tongues of the mute sing, and Mark’s gospel in which Jesus fulfills that prophecy by healing the blind and mute – I reminded myself that none of us will likely have the opportunity to give a deaf person or a blind person sound or sight. But the words of St. James in the second reading in which he says Show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ reminded me what priest said at the beginning of his homily. We are all, said Fr. Israel, “God’s humble instruments of healing.”

In other words, it matters not one whit to God if we are rich or poor, sick or healthy, black or white, man or woman. And it shouldn’t matter to us either. Those parents love their little girl just as much as they love their two older children. Healing doesn’t have to be something showy and awe-inspiring, like making a blind man see. Healing can be done quietly by the Holy Spirit, and it’s every bit as important.Those parents and their children heal each other every day of the week.

We are all blessed with the grace of God, and healed by his love.