Tuesday, December 24, 2013


A Reading:       Isaiah 9:2-7                                                        
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—   on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. 

For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders;  and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. 


Thousands of years ago, people longed for something to change. They spoke of it in their poems and songs, they gathered around fires and told stories. One day, things would be different.

We are not so different. We all want things to be better next year than they were this one, we all want to believe in the idea that there is something more.

And so we gather with our families, on one of the darkest nights of the year, to believe in miracles...

I saw an ad on Kijijji yesterday, it is an online place where you can sell stuff, and the ad was offering Christmas spirit. It said, if you have no one to spend Christmas with, come to our house, if you have nothing for supper, we have a ham we can give you, if you have no gifts, we have gift certificates for the stores... then I read how the power is out in half of Moncton today, so the Crown Plaza, one of the nicer hotels in town, is offering rooms to anyone without power for 30 bucks.

Life will not get you down, Isaiah said, There is such goodness in the world that we will see light shining in the darkness... and tonight, we see that light. Here. Now. In the faces of those who have gathered.

A Reading:    Luke 2:1-7

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.      


It all starts with this... with the baby in the manger... and we can see it in so many different ways; God bending near the earth and coming to live among us... God’s love showing up in unexpected ways in unexpected places... a moment when someone was born that would change everything...

But it is Christmas. And it is worth noting that it happened in an out of the way place and the first people to recognize why this was important were not kings or queens or professors or priests, it was ordinary people, like you and me, like the shepherds, who were able to see in what was happening, something amazing.

A Reading:    Luke 2:8-14                                        
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’


I love the idea of Angels bending near the earth. I love the idea of thin places, of those times when heaven and earth seem very close together. I mean that poetically – like when you see a sunrise, or walk on new fallen snow in the starlight… When you hold a baby or see someone sound asleep with a smile on their face. I love the times when we see God.

I have a romantic notion that the shepherds just could not live without seeing this baby for another second. That it was as if they knew that something magical, something divine was happening and they just had to be a part of it. So much so that they just left… they ran down the hillside to get there in time… they did whatever it would take to be with God.

I have always felt that Christmas was a magical time of year, and I guess what I have always been trying to say is that I feel the magic of God’s presence in these moments. I am not sure how, concretely, that happens… I am not sure what, exactly, I am feeling at times such as these… but it is as if I know that everything will be all right, that I am loved, that goodness really will save the day.

You see, I have seen the stranger push the car out of the snowbank; I have watched someone give 100 dollars to a homeless man on Christmas Eve; I have read stories in which Christmas has the power to change lives and I have seen evidence.

And I think it really is that simple. We all want to believe. We all want to know that we are loved. We all want to have hope. We all want to sing with joy… but we need a reminder every now and again that these feelings are ok. We need to be shown that there is goodness and hope and mercy and love and that in the end, these things do make a difference.

Perhaps it is too simplistic, but I see that in a Christmas Eve service. I see friendly faces, I see candles burning nostalgically, I see lights aglow and new fallen snow… and well… I see God.

Christmas Eve makes me want to run down that hillside too. It makes me want to go and see what God has done, and then take that out into the world... I want to be a shepherd.


We are like the Shepherds. We are the ordinary people living our lives on the hillside... but every now and again, the miraculous, the holy, the magical breaks through....

We catch a glimpse of God and we see love breaking through... Hopefully tonight in this service, or at home in the morning with the gifts under the tree, something stirs your soul, and you can go from here and take God’s news. Be the messengers and share the love...

And so I send you forth with hope, with peace, with joy, and with love.

Know that the light of Christ goes with you.

May this lovely season of Christmas bring you blessings in abundance.
May the love of God work its magic in your life.
May your heart be filled with hope and joy. 
May you touch every life you meet.

Merry Christmas and peace for you this New Year.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

ADVENT IV - Angels

This is a sermon modified from a service created by Ali Smith and I for a powerpoint presentation with Angel movie clips. Due to snow in 2013 I never gave the service, and re-worked it for this sermon....

Advent Four – Angels Among Us

Reading:         Matthew 1:18-25   The Angel Visits Joseph                          

            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.
            Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man
            and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace,
            planned to dismiss her quietly.

            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.
            She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus,
            for he will save his people from their sins.’

            All this took place to fulfil
            what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
            ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
            and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
            which means, ‘God is with us.’

            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.

Theme Introduction:

            When you picture an angel, what do you see?
            There is a pretty classic image: 
            the perfect human body,
            the white wings enfolded behind the shoulders,
            the halo...
            maybe they are carrying a sword,
            maybe they are brooding silently
            or flying through the air.

            And where do we find angels in our tradition?
            Angels guarded the entrance to the Garden of Eden
            when we were kicked out;
            angels came and destroyed the cities that turned against God;
            angels came to speak to Mary and others about the birth of Jesus,
            they sing in a heavenly chorus
            and angels destroy the world in Revelations.

            It is a bit of a mixed bag -
            from warriors to choirs to messengers.
            But the actual word “angel” has a pretty specific meaning.
            If you trace it back, it comes from the Latin “angelus”
            which in turn traces back to the ancient Greek ἄγγελος (aggelos).
            In any case, it means messenger.

            So angels come to bring a message,
            they come on behalf of the divine,
            and they show us something that we otherwise would overlook.

            Angels exist in Christianity, in Judaism, and in Islam.
            And over the centuries there has been a lot written,
            a lot imagined,
            and a lot of traditions which have developed.

            Believe it or not,
            there are some dozen types of angels
            that we have come to believe in.
            The main divisions are listed in the back of your bulletin.  (Note:  At the end of this document.)
            From Guardian angels who protect us and keep us safe
            to the Cherubim and Seraphim
            that pop up around this time of year in some of our Christmas carols,
            known for their joy and beautiful singing abilities. 

            Who knew that this whole angel thing could be so complex!

            When we think of the stories, the movies,
            the ways in which Angels have been known in popular culture,
            angels are the ones who come to us and show us the way.

            Are they real?
            What exactly is an angel?
            Where do these beliefs in angels come from anyway?

            Join me today as we explore these mysterious creatures.
            Let's think together about who or what they are
            and how they might work in our lives today.


Reading:         Exodus 23:20-22         An Angel to Guard You

            I want to read you a couple of verses from Exodus
            that show us that the notion of angels is really quite an old one.
            Listen to what God promises to send to someone who needs help.

            I am going to send an angel in front of you,
            to guard you on the way
            and to bring you to the place
            that I have prepared.

            Be attentive to him
            and listen to his voice;
            do not rebel against him,
            for he will not pardon your transgression;
            for my name is in him.

            But if you listen attentively to his voice
            and do all that I say,
            then I will be an enemy to your enemies
            and a foe to your foes.

Reflection:      “The Stereotypical”

            When most of us think of angels,
            we do think of the Guardian Angel.
            Perhaps it was Michael Landon in Highway to Heaven,
            or maybe Touched by an Angel,
            or maybe It's a Wonderful Life,
            but when angels come to mind for most of us,
            it is this heavenly person sent from God
            to watch over our shoulder.

            This is not the Angel of classical paintings either -
            no wings or perfect bodies.
            Rather they look just like us.
            So ordinary, in fact, that you might never even notice them.

            But you can usually find someone
            who has had an encounter
            or thinks some invisible angel has helped them.
            Perhaps an invisible presence has warned them of a  storm
            or helped them out when their car broke down… or….
            well, you get the idea.

            The thing is,
            this understanding of an angel
            is not mentioned very much in the Bible.
            And it is not all that different
            than how we think of God -
            the voice that leads us,
            our conscience,
            those little voices that warn us of danger.

            This is not to say that this goes against the definition.
            An angel, after all, is a messenger of God.
            An Angel speaks for God.
            An Angel is the voice of God. 
            So this is where we start our journey -
            with angels as the voice of God, however we hear it -
            that still small voice,
            or that overwhelming feeling which changes everything.

            I love It’s a Wonderful Life.
            I think we have all been there:
            feeling like nothing we do works out
            or makes a difference.
            And we really do need reminders
            of who we are
            and how much we matter.

            Perhaps that is where these stories come from.
            They come from times when we have somehow been connected
            to the Divine enough
            to hear the way it is at work in our lives.

            The idea of the Guardian Angel comes from
            the feeling that God is speaking to us
            and usually that God is warning us.

            The other thing about this way of seeing God at work amongst us
            is that the end result is up to us.
            The angel comes and speaks to us
            but we are the ones who have to make the choice
            whether to listen or not.

Reading:         Revelation 12:7-9      Michael Defeats the Dragon

            Sometimes certain angels are mentioned by name.
            At Christmas time,
            we hear an awful lot about
            the Angel Gabriel, for instance.
            And then there's Michael,
            an archangel who features at the very end of the Bible
            in the Book of Revelation.
            His claim to fame is described in this way:

            And war broke out in heaven;
            Michael and his angels fought against the dragon.
            The dragon and his angels fought back,
            but they were defeated,
            and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

            The great dragon was thrown down,
            that ancient serpent,
            who is called the Devil and Satan,
            the deceiver of the whole world—
            he was thrown down to the earth,
            and his angels were thrown down with him.

Reflection:      “The Unexpected”

            So, angels are messengers from God
            but they are not always what we expect.
            In fact, you might say when God interacts with the world,
            it is almost never what anyone expects.
            Jesus born as a baby in order to save the world?
            Not what the people were really hoping for.

            What is it that we are expecting of angels?
            What is it we are hoping for?

            I loved the movie Michael when it came out,
            because it so highlighted the idea
            that this was an angel who was not what anyone expected.
            And it reminds us that what we have in mind,
            really is our own projection.

            The same could be said about our conception of God, right?
            And this is why this is so important.
            The angel is the stand in for God.
            When we imagine angels,
            we are imagining them
            speaking or acting for God.
            And the thing is,
            God is almost never acting the way we want.

            It's like when we talk to someone on the phone for a while,
            or write emails back and forth,
            and then finally meet the person.
            The voice led us to imagine they look a certain way,
            and they do not.

            The Archangels like Michael are not what we expect
            an angel to be.
            In fact, they might just be the opposite of what we expect.
            The image of Christmas angels
            fills our heads with white flowing robes,
            soft angel wings, and harps –
            the very picture of peace on earth.
            But according to legends,
            archangels were the shock troops of God.

            And when you look at the biblical stories about them alone,
            they give us cause to worry.
            These are the soldiers who swoop down from heaven
            and kill every first born child.
            These are the ones who wipe out whole cities.
            They guard the Garden of Eden with flaming swords.

            Now, I mention this not to say
            that our God is a violent, vengeful God
            who sends fully-armed messengers to earth,
            but to make the point that God shows up
            in unexpected places
            and in unexpected ways.
            There is no simple way of understanding God.

            So keep your eyes peeled for God's messengers
            in all kinds of places.
            God may be trying to speak to you
            through the lovely older lady
            who speaks gentle words of wisdom
            but God also might speak through
            the young inexperienced tattooed man too.
            God might try to speak to us
            through the confident preacher on a hillside
            or through the inaudible cries of a tiny baby.

Reading:         Matthew 28:1-7          The Angel in the Garden

            It is interesting that the two events
            that anchor our Christian faith
            rely heavenly on angels.
            We've already talked about Christmas angels,
            and now I'd like to read you about an Easter angel
            from Matthew's Gospel.

            After the sabbath,
            as the first day of the week was dawning,
            Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
            went to see the tomb.

            And suddenly there was a great earthquake;
            for an angel of the Lord,
            descending from heaven,
            came and rolled back the stone
            and sat on it.

            His appearance was like lightning,
            and his clothing white as snow.
            For fear of him,
            the guards shook
            and became like dead men.

            But the angel said to the women, ‘
            Do not be afraid;
            I know that you are looking for Jesus
            who was crucified.
            He is not here;
            for he has been raised,
            as he said.
            Come, see the place where he lay.
            Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
            “He has been raised from the dead,
            and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee;
            there you will see him.”
            This is my message for you.’

Reflection:      “The Comforter”

            Angels can be guardians and angels can be warriors
            but here is another way to understand angels – as comforters. 

            We have all been in those low places,
            those times of our lives when the tears fall too easily,
            or when we cannot possibly imagine what to do next.
            We have all had times where so much seems
            to have fallen apart that we really do not know where to go.

            Picture Mary Magdalene on Good Friday.
            Jesus has been crucified and buried.
            Everything she believed in has been turned upside down
            and if she could wish for one concrete thing,
            it would be for someone to come
            and tell her everything is going to be all right...
            maybe even tell her exactly what to do.
            And that is who she encounters in the garden.

            In those moments when we do not know what to do,
            we hear the voice of God
            or the whisper of the cosmos in our ear
            and it sets us in the right direction.

            We could be talking about conscience,
            we could be talking about a dream,
            we could be talking about someone else
            who is communicating possibilities -
            for those are all ways
            that God speaks to us.
            And so all of these examples
            could be seen as angels of comfort.

            And I see that as another way
            that we are connected to God.

Prayers of the People:

            In this most holy season,
            we have gathered, God,
            to celebrate the birth of Jesus,
            to join our voices with the choirs of angels,
            to come with shepherds to the stable
            and wonder at this Christmas miracle.
            With us,
            we bring the hopes and hurt of the world.

            In this season of abundance,
            we remember those who have little.
            We remember neighbours who are unemployed,
            those whose futures have been frustrated.

            In this season of carols,
            we remember those who have little to sing about -
            all who are lonely, anxious, or sick.

            In this season of festivity,
            we remember those who face
            the harsh reality of oppression and violence.

            Yet through the shadows of our world
            shines the light of your promise.
            The angels' heavenly music
            floats over all the weary world.

            For ourselves,
            we ask strength and purpose,
            to live the love of Christmas Emmanuel,
            in whose way we now pray:
Reading:         Genesis 32:22-31        Jacob Wrestles with an Angel 

            There is a funny little story way back in the book of Genesis
            about Jacob struggling with an angel.
            It is funny in the visual image that pops into your head
            when you think of a grown man in a wrestling match
            with a stereotypical white winged angel.
            It's not so strange though
            when we consider
            how we metaphorically “wrestle” with God
            all the time.
            So, listen to these words
            and see if you can find yourself in them.

            The same night he got up
            and took his two wives,
            his two maids,
            and his eleven children,
            and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.
            He took them and sent them across the stream,
            and likewise everything that he had.

            Jacob was left alone;
            and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.
            When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob,
            he struck him on the hip socket;
            and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.

            Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’
            But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’
            So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’
            And he said, ‘Jacob.’
            Then the man said,
            ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,
            for you have striven with God and with humans,
            and have prevailed.’
            Then Jacob asked him,
            'Please tell me your name.’
            But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’
            And there he blessed him.

            So Jacob called the place Peniel,
            saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face,
            and yet my life is preserved.’

            The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel,
            limping because of his hip.

Reflection:      “The Challenger”

            How do we hear the voice of God when it comes to us?
            We have been exploring different ways
            through which the voice comes to us,
            but I want to turn it around for a second
            and put the focus back on us.
            What do we hear?
            How do we hear it?
            Do we always hear it?

            I really think that answer to the last question is no.
            We do not always listen to the wisdom of God;
            in fact, we often get so caught up
            in ourselves or our problems or our despair
            that we need to be challenged
            to see life from a different perspective.

            Sometimes the challenge comes through our acceptance of pain
            and how life is worth living even in the face of that pain.

            At other times,
            it is about being honest with who we are,
            as we see in our reading about Jacob at the Ford in Jabbok.
            Here is a man who has not made peace with his past,
            a man who is feeling a lot of pain.
            And he wrestles with it through the night
            in order to make peace with it.
            He is wrestling with the angel of the Lord,
            according to the story.

            Angels challenge us.
            Angels come and bring with them a wisdom,
            a way of seeing us that we perhaps do not have
            and thus we grow.

            In all of our stories about angels,
            we are looking at the ways we hear the voice of God
            and how it helps us out.
            But there is one step more:
            we need to hear that voice,
            we need to believe that voice,
            and we need to act.

            Look out for the angels,
            for just as they could be heard
            singing in the fields of Bethlehem
            when Jesus was born,
            you can find them in your life too.

            I can't tell you exactly
            how they might appear
            or how you might experience such a presence,
            but I can say that if you open yourself up,
            you will surely hear God speaking to you.

            How will you respond?

Monday, December 16, 2013


Being Born in You - Mary


“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times...” Someone once said that in a book or something... ok, ok, opening line of A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens.  Nonetheless, a very poignant opening line and very, very wise... life is like that... best of times, worst of times... sorrow and sweetness all wrapped up into one.

Sometimes it is not easy to figure out which is which... take the story of Mary – unwed, pregnant, potentially alone, trying to convince others that it is a miracle, about to be moved off to another city, told by angels she will birth a saviour, welcomed with open arms by her cousin Elizabeth and even her betrothed, Joseph...  the best of times, the worst of times.

How about the Israelites, forced into exile, city abandoned, finally granted freedom, returning to ruins, planting their own gardens... again, best of times, worst of times... and yet... and yet...

People who embrace the reality that life is both sadness and joy at the same time come to such a deep understanding that it can lead to song... nowadays it leads to the blues... but once upon a time, it led to songs of praise to God... and we are going to hear one of them in just a couple of minutes.

Rejoice and be Glad

“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing....”

It is an incredible poem, an image of all the things going right in the world that you could hope for... it is like sitting at home in the middle of a snow storm and remembering that you are soon going to be lying on the beach in Jamaica under the palm tree with the coconut drink in your hand and the sun shining down on you...

I have seen firsthand that there are both good times and bad times; good things and bad things in life. I think we all have. We all have those painful gut-wrenching, hearts breaking moments that make us doubt that anything good could possibly come out of it.

But I am here; I do what I do, because I believe that Isaiah knew something I do not! Isaiah was trying to tell us that we need to hear God speaking even when we are in pain; we need to know that God’s love is still there in the desert moments and the blossoms are still possible.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by love even in the midst of something horrible happening? Have you ever just known that love is there for you and will lift you up? That is what Isaiah felt, that is what Mary felt, they knew that painful things were happening, they were afraid, and yet... they trusted God’s love was there and would bring them through.

Baby Love

When Emily was born she had the cord wrapped around her neck. She was not breathing, and did not breathe for over 3 minutes. It was a moment of incredible fear and pain in my life. I was certain that my baby I had waited so long for had died.

The moment that the breath first happened, the moment that the colour first changed... I was filled with Joy.
It is not exactly the same, but it makes me think what Mary might have been feeling. She could have been stoned to death; he baby might have been born into an uncertain world where no one would care for it. She might end up raising him alone when single mothers were not safe.... how could she possibly believe that God was good?

But the story unfolds, She hears the angel, she sees the prophecies, Joseph loves her, she visits her cousin and is welcomed and loved... Mary comes to see that her baby will be loved, it might be safe, and well, it might not be an ordinary baby.

Elizabeth says that John leapt in her womb because of joy the minute their bodies touched.

And more than that – Mary felt it in her body, in her spirit; in her soul... we are not talking about happiness here. We are talking about something that goes beyond the simple pleasures that make us happy – something that touches us so deeply and so passionately that we cannot help but sing.

That sense of joy is not just rooted in the birth – it is rooted in something greater than her, in her God – her understanding of how God has blessed her in this moment.

We know that joy in our lives at times... Like when we celebrate Christmas for the first few times, or get our drivers licence and go for the first ride. Or fall in love for the first time, or hear a heartbeat for the first time...
And that joy is not dependant on everything being perfect. Perhaps that is one of the things we can take away from the wisdom of Mary.


So life cannot be perfect, and that is fine. But we need to know that there will always be joy. That there will always be times when love conquers the darkness.

Sunday, December 8, 2013




Christmas and giving seem to go together. They have for hundreds of years. It all started with the legend of St Nicholas who started bringing gifts to the poor children on Christmas Eve. Since that time so long ago it has grown and grown to become a time when we show our love though our gifts.

There are so many stories that have grown up over the years about gifts and giving. In fact, the idea of Boxing Day was originally that you would box up your leftovers and give them to the poor.

Then there is White Gift, started by a Presbyterian Minister’s wife in the early 1900’s when a Sunday school was having a gift exchange and she wanted to make it fairer, by making all of the gifts anonymous.

When I was thinking about who in the Christmas story gave the best gifts… like the shepherds or the drummer boy or the Wise Men… it occurred to me that I was missing someone, Joseph.

In fact, Joseph has got to be the unsung hero of the whole story. He gets the smallest part of all, no dialogue, an Angel tells him to go with it, and then he just goes along. But if you stop to think about it, it could not have been that simple.

So today let’s get behind the giving, let’s look at why sharing from our heart is important, and let’s celebrate the meaning of these gifts.

So why do gifts have such power in these stories? Why is giving such a huge part of Christmas?


One of my favourite Christmas quotes of all times comes from Charles Dickens. In fact, Dickens and his book A Christmas Carol, sort of launched our modern Victorian influenced celebration of Christmas and made it into this gift giving, turkey feasting festival.

In the book, Scrooge, who hates Christmas, has a nephew who loves Christmas. And in an argument the nephew says this:

“But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round… as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys…"

Or to put it in the way Terry did at our Advent study the other day, during Christmas we all seem to be able to let ourselves imagine that all these miraculous things are true…

So how about this, an angel comes to you in the middle of the night and tells you your teenage girlfriend is pregnant, but not to worry, it is God’s child and everything will be all right.

What kind of man does it take to accept that? What kind of person could put the doubts away and believe in the miracle?

If Joseph was a different person, I bet Christmas would not have happened. After all, we tend to make the past sound a lot friendlier than it really was. If your fiancé got pregnant by someone else, the proscribed punishment would be to stone her to death publically as a harlot.

But Joseph never even seems to consider this, he seems to operate from some other way of being. 


Now, Paul had some pretty good advice for the church in Corinth, be a cheerful giver. Give from the heart and because you want to. If you do that, you are doing a good deed.

Then Jesus ups this one more time by saying when you give even if you have nothing, when you risk giving more than you can, you will be blessed.

It is not as if Jesus is saying you will be judged, you have to see this the right way. Jesus is saying, if you are faithful, if you believe in God, if you follow the religion the way it was taught to you in Sunday School, you are going to give from your heart.

See what I mean, if you are full of love, you just love. It is a natural response. You don’t have to be forced to do it. You don’t need to be convinced. It is just part of who you are.

Back to our friend Joseph, he was a Tekton, in Greek, which means he worked with his hands. He was either a wood worker or a stone mason. People have generally fallen towards carpentry, but it makes no difference, he was a skilled labourer and he was from a really small town.

He was from an unremarkable family of simple folk, and his marriage was arranged, probably by his father, to a young neighbor girl.

Joseph probably hasn’t been to Jerusalem more than once in his life, for a religious pilgrimage to the Temple. He certainly has never been any further away from town than that.

I want you to understand all of this because it shows us something of who Joseph was, someone just like you and me, a normal, run of the mill small town boy who grew up and worked for his father and got engaged when his family told him to.

Except… he has faith. We may not know much about Joseph, but we know that. We know when an Angel shows up and talks to him he listens. We know that he found out Mary was pregnant and did not shun her. We know he raises this child, not his real son, as if he was his very own, so much so that Jesus goes down in history as the Son of Joseph and a Carpenter, same as his father.

We know that Joseph fled his home town and left the country to Keep Jesus safe, we know that he brought him to the Temple to have him circumcised, we know that he took him to Jerusalem to learn from the Rabbi’s.

See, Joseph might not be mentioned a whole lot in the Bible, but we know what he did.

He loved. He gave of himself when he did not have to. He helped Jesus become who he needed to be.

Conclusion of Theme

There is a story I read quite a while ago now, I cannot even remember where I first saw it. But it is about a young boy, let’s say he is seven, who has an older sister who is dying.

Turns out there is a chance to turn things around, the girl needs a blood transfusion, and then perhaps her body will heal itself, and her brother is the perfect match.

The parents go to him and explain all of this carefully and completely, and ask him if he will be willing to do this, to which he says, of course.

So they are lying in hospital beds side by side and they hook up the IV and the blood starts pumping out and into the filter and the boy looks up and says…. “How long before I die?”

He thought he was giving all of his blood so his sister could live. And he did it anyway.

We might become a little cynical about the gift buying, about the credit card debt, about how it all seems to spiral out of control sometimes. But we also have to remember that there is something very basic at the heart of all of this. We give because we love. That is what Joseph taught us.