Beloved Friends- This Sunday will mark the fourth and final Sunday of Advent, moving us ever so much closer to the Feast of the Nativity in a few short days. We will even hear these words from the gospel according to Matthew: Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way…and in seven short verses hear this important “birth story.” This telling of that story lifts up the very special and often overlooked role of Joseph.
Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, was the one who trusted in a very special way, and acting on faith, chose to follow the directions of the angel in his dreams commending him to not be afraid and to take Mary as his wife and name their child Jesus.
We have been waiting together this season—waiting when it is hard not to know the outcome, waiting by trying to notice the smallest of signs of hope or new life, like a new way home or a small green shoot of new life emerging somewhere unexpected, and now, waiting perhaps to notice someone so important but often forgotten.
But this Sunday we will look and see, notice and listen to this faithful man who played such an important role. He, like us as well, is a pivotal part of this birth story in no small way.
Every Sunday I have the honor of placing a small piece of bread in each of your hands at the time of communion. It is perhaps one of the holiest moments of the week for me; in that small moment we are invited into a different reality-one in which we dare to become what we receive- a beacon of endless love and extravagant hope. Over the years I have begun to “memorize your hands”- how you hold them and what they look like. Like fingerprints, each pair is unique and beautiful and holds the stories of our rich lives. Perhaps that is why I have become so fond of a wonderful poem by Catherine Alder called Advent Hands.
Advent Hands (by Catherine Alder)
I see the hands of Joseph.
Back and forth along bare wood they move.
There is worry in those working hands,
sorting out confusing thoughts with every stroke.
“How can this be, my beautiful Mary now with child?”
Rough with deep splinters, these hands,
small, painful splinters like tiny crosses
embedded deeply in this choice to stay with her.
He could have closed his hands to her,
said, “No” and let her go to stoning.
But, dear Joseph opened both his heart and hands
to this mother and her child.
Preparing in these days before
with working hands
and wood pressed tight between them.
It is these rough hands that will open
and be the first to hold the Child…
Come home this Sunday so that we might sing and pray together as we continue to wait together for the coming of the Christ child, now so imminent and needed.
May you never forget that you are loved,