*Barbara Brown Taylor says of Jesus, “Jesus is not alone in this word-made-flesh business…. Almost everyone has a word that he or she has a gift for bringing to life. For one person the word is ‘compassion.’ For another it is ‘justice.’ For someone else the word is ‘generosity.’ For another it is ‘patience.’ Until someone acts upon these words, they remain abstract concepts – very good ideas that few people have ever seen. The moment someone acts on them, the words become flesh. They live among us so we can see their glory.”
As I think of her words, I think of the story **Janet Wolf told of a very reluctant Joseph who wanted nothing to do with the annual Christmas program.
She writes: “We were trying to pull together a Christmas Play, and our own little Joseph had made it a challenging task. Nevertheless, someone decided our Joseph would be included. He and I would sit up front to remind folks when to come and go. Little Joseph was not enthused: ‘Ain’t coming to no stupid Christmas play. I got better things to do. Hah! My mama’s taking me to the Christmas parade.’”
“It seemed unlikely that Joseph’s mama, a single mother with four boys and two part-time jobs, could take Joseph to the parade. So I tried again: ‘If you’re not here, the angels might stay too long. The shepherds might forget to show up. We can’t do it without you!’ Joseph’s parting words were these: ‘Ain’t coming to no stupid Christmas play.’”
“But he did come, early even, and was wonderfully helpful getting the youngest children into their costumes. Then one of the older – kids hollered: ‘Thought you weren’t coming to no stupid Christmas play?’ My heart sank, sure this would do Joseph in. But Joseph just turned and declared: ‘Course I’m gonna show up. They can’t even do it without me!’”
God needs each of our gifts this season, to embody Christ like love and spread that love in places it is most needed. In the economy of God, there is a place, even for a reluctant Joseph, who discovers he is needed. God can’t do this birthing of the Christ Child without him.
“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. . . . When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.” Matthew 1:18-21, 24
*Second Sunday after Christmas Day, John 1:(1-9)10-18, Homiletical Perspective, in “Feasting on the Word” Year C, vol. 1, Advent through Transfiguration [ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2009] 191
**Janet Wolf, (Community organizer, college professor and elder in the Tennessee Annual Conference) Upper Room Discipline 2009, pg 14.