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by Sally Howard

In the lectionary for this week, we are told the Advent story from Joseph’s point of view.

O Sapientia
Madeleine L’Engle
It was from Joseph first I learned
of love. Like me he was dismayed.
How easily he could have turned
me from his house; but, unafraid,
he put me not away from him
(O God-sent angel, pray for him).
Thus through his love was Love obeyed.

Mary tells Joseph of her pregnancy and he decides to send her away quietly. The gospel of Matthew describes Joseph as a righteous man, evidenced by his willingness to shield Mary from ruin or even death. Originally, the word righteousness had the meaning of ‘benevolence’ and the Messianic Jewish commentary of David Stern affirms the Jewish practice of ‘doing tzedakah’ as charity. Joseph’s heart was aligned with God’s love and he was willing to lay aside a perverse male privilege that would have allowed him to avenge an injury by the most severe means.

But God called him to more. God called Joseph to the wisdom of intuition and dreams, and to risk his reputation on the wisdom and words of a young woman. God asked Joseph to accept the life long role of moving out of the center and on to the sidelines, by devoting himself to God’s Love child, not his own. Joseph responded with a nuptial yes to God and to Mary, enabling God’s love, wild and formidable, to be born.

Sally Howard serves as Associate for Pastoral Care at All Saints Church in Pasadena.

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