Adult coloring books are the in thing, and today’s Gospel is a scene waiting for us to fill in the colors.
In Luke’s Gospel Mary dominates the scene and the script; Joseph doesn’t appear in the picture until Jesus is about to be born; while today’s reading from the Gospel according to Matthew draws Joseph into the word-picture in the opening line and his name runs through the entire story, where he is named but never speaks. It is Mary who does all the speaking and singing throughout the lead-up scenes to the Birth of Jesus.
Today has us coloring outside the lines as we add colors to the speechless Joseph, (place the stand-up figure of Joseph by the manger). who is described in the very first line as a man in a mess:
“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”
As we look at you, Joseph, we cannot help but speak for you,
“It’s all been very ‘kosher’ – our parents arranged that we were to be married, our engagement has been announced, giving us the titles ‘husband and wife’ but not living together for a whole year which our parents spend preparing for the ceremony and reception.
“And then Mary drops the bombshell! She tells me she is ‘found with child!”
We can imagine you, in your silence are suppressing the questions,
“Where, who, ‘found’ you, Mary? It certainly wasn’t me!’”
“There is no other explanation than someone else ‘found’ you, and you let yourself be ‘found.’
“By Hebrew law, our town court will sentence you be stoned to death.”
We read what the storyteller says about your reaction:
Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.
The storyteller lets us know that you though silent, speak through your actions.
You dismiss pursuing legal action; you give no thought to punishing Mary with public disgrace, no trial, judgment, and sentence of death, and you say nothing to Mary’s parents, to the local rabbi, to the town’s court, but quietly divorce Mary and send her away to a private place where the gossip won’t follow her.
“Joseph, when we see what you plan to do to get out of the mess, we understand why the Gospel writer describes you as being righteous, – good, kind, honorable, caring – acting lovingly rather than judgmentally.”
It’s that word RIGHTEOUS that has you, though speechless, speaking to us and helping us decide how to color in your colorless figure. Our choice is GOLD – gold for a “righteous” man, a Godly man, acting in the God-like way of love in action, for which the word is GRACE.
The storyteller has more to report:
But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘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.’
“Joseph, the word that comes to mind is to interpret your dream as a sign of your being: ‘Reverent’ – the reverence of silence, the reverence of ‘letting go and letting God,’ –the dreaming that prompts Alyce McKenzie to say of you, ‘Joseph allows God to speak to the depths of his heart and propose a resolution to his human dilemma that his human reason had failed to discern.’ (quoted from Matthew Interpretation Bible Studies.)
“Joseph, we see you are letting God work in a wondrous, mysterious, unexplainable way, that has you, like Mary, say your ‘yes’ to God.‘Yes, God, use me to give Jesus my legal name, when it is You Who gives Him YOUR genetic makeup.’
“Joseph, it’s you awakening from what the Gospel writer calls a dream to take your place beside Mary that has us adding the color WHITE,mwhite for a “reverent man” who lets God use you to legitimize Mary’s Baby’s claim to two titles: Son of Man and Son of God.
“Silent, speechless Joseph, as we add white to your colors – white, the fullness of all colors, you turn us to searching, probing, asking, ‘When have we had that moment when God pulled us out of ourselves and we let God speak to the depths of our hearts?’ ‘When have we said our yes, use me, God, even me? ‘Is each day a new day to live that yes?’
“Joseph, silent, speechless Joseph, we let the storyteller carry your ‘yes’ forward in the words:
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,
but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. (meaning God saves)
Jesus –the One through Whom God works to save us.
“You, Joseph, are working to protect the Baby Who will grow to be our Savior, as you do ‘all the worrying jobs in the Christmas story’- packing the donkey, looking for Herod’s solders, planning a quick escape into Egypt, moving back to guerilla-war infested Nazareth, (Adapted from s the back of Dec. 18, 2016 UCC worship bulletin) -
The report that YOU name Him Jesus has us adding the color RED for taking on the sacrificial work of being the refugee and immigrant parents of the One Who will grow to have nowhere to lay His head, and will surrender Himself in death to give us His Gift of life. ‘Jesus,’ born the save us from our sins.
“Joseph, silent speechless Joseph, I must confess that naming Jesus as you do, the One Who works to save us, and calls us to take up His saving work, became a little too relevant this week when someone gave our church a banner that reads: ‘Immigrants and Refugees Welcome’ and pictures you with Mary and the Baby fleeing into Egypt, to save Jesus from being killed by Herod’s soldiers.
You disturb us, Joseph, as you challenge us to redeem the words, ‘refugee and immigrant’ from today’s political agendas and make them our call to ministries that will color us with the hue of gold: acting in a God-like way of love; white: saying a total ‘yes’ to God; red: letting God Who saves us in Jesus personalize His saving work –working in some way through us.
“Joseph, silent speechless Joseph, in coloring you into the Story we would color ourselves as well.” Amen.