NOVEMBER 29, 2020
FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT
Grace and Gloria Dei Lutheran Churches
READINGS AND PSALM
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Letter From Joseph shared by Bonita Dickinson
God’s blessings be with you all!
LETTER FROM JOSEPH
We are still in Bethlehem — Mary and I, and little Jesus. There were lots of things I could not tell you about last summer. You would not have believed me then, but maybe I can tell you now. I hope you can understand. You know, Mom, I have always loved Mary. You and dad used to tease me about her when she was still a girl. She and her brothers used to play on our street. Our families got together for supper. But the hardest day of my life came scarcely a year ago when I was twenty and she only fifteen. You remember that day, don’t you? The trouble started after we were betrothed and signed the marriage agreement at our engagement. That same spring Mary had left abruptly to visit her old cousin Elizabeth in Judea. She was gone three whole months. After she got back, people started wondering out loud if she were pregnant. It was cloudy the day when I finally confronted her with the gossip. “Mary,” I asked at last, “are you going to have a baby?” Her clear brown eyes met mine. She nodded. I did not know what to say. “Who?” I finally stammered. Mom, Mary and I had never acted improperly — even after we were betrothed. Mary looked down. “Joseph,” she said. “There’s no way I can explain. you could not understand. But I want you to know I’ve never cared for anyone but you.” She got up, gently took my hands in hers, kissed each of them as if it were the last time she would ever do that again, and then turned towards home. She must have been dying inside. I know I was. The rest of the day I stumbled through my chores. It is a wonder I didn’t hurt myself in the wood shop. At first, I was angry and pounded my frustrations out on the doorframe I was making. My thoughts whirled so fast I could hardly keep my mind on my work. At last I decided to end the marriage contract with a quiet divorce. I loved her too much to make a public scene. I could not talk to you. Or anyone, for that matter. I went to bed early and tried to sleep. Her words came to me over and over. “I’ve never cared for anyone but you…. I’ve never cared for anyone but you….” How I wished I could believe her! I do not know when I finally fell asleep. Mom, I had a dream from God. An angel of the Lord came to me. His words pulsated through my mind so intensely I can remember them as if it were yesterday. “Joseph, Son of David,” he thundered, “do not fear to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” I could not believe my ears, Mom. This was the answer! The angel continued, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” The angel gripped my shoulders with his huge hands. For a long moment, his gaze pierced deep within me. Just as he turned to go, I think I saw a smile on his shining face. I sat bolt upright in bed. No sleep after that! I tossed about for a while, going over the words in my mind. Then I got up and dressed quietly so I would not wake you. I must have walked for miles beneath the moon-less sky. Stars pricked the blackness like a thousand tiny pinpoints. A warm breeze blew on my face. I sang to the Lord, Mom. Yes, me, singing, if you can imagine that. I could not contain my joy. I told Him that I would take Mary and care for her. I told Him I would watch over her and the child–no matter what anyone said. I got back just as the sun kissed the hilltops. I do not know if you still recall that morning, Mom. I can see it in my mind’s eye as if it were yesterday. You were feeding the chickens, surprised to see me out. Remember? “Sit down,” I said to you. “I’ve got to tell you something.” I took your arm and helped you find a seat on the big rock out back. “Mom,” I said, “I’m going to bring Mary home as my wife. Can you help me make a place for her things?” You were silent a long time. “You do know what they’re saying, don’t you, my son?” you said at last, your eyes glistening. “Yes, Mom, I know.” Your voice started to rise. “If your father were still alive, he would have some words, I’ll tell you. Going about like that before you are married. Disgracing the family and all. You…. you and Mary ought to be ashamed of yourselves.” You would never have believed me if I’d tried to explain, so I didn’t. Unless the angel had spoken to you, you would have laughed me to scorn. 7 “Mom, this is the right thing to do,” I said. And then I started talking to you as if I were the head of the house. “When she comes, I don’t want one word to her about it,” I sputtered. “She’s your daughter-in-law, you’ll respect her. She’ll need your help if she is to bear the neighbors’ wagging tongues!” I am sorry, Mom. You did not deserve that. You started to get up in a huff. “Mom,” I murmured, “I need you.” You took my hand and got to your feet, but the fire was gone from your eyes. “You can count on me, Joseph,” you told me with a long hug. And you meant it. I never heard another word. No bride could hope for a better mother-in-law than you those next few months. Mom, after I left you, I went up the road to Mary’s house and knocked. Her mother glared at me as she opened the door. Loudly, harshly she called into the house, “It’s Joseph!” almost spitting out my name as she said it. My little Mary came out cringing, as if she expected me to give her the back of my hand, I suppose. Her eyes were red and puffy. I can just imagine what her parents had said. We walked a few steps from the house. She looked so young and afraid. “Pack your things, Mary,” I told her gently. “I’m taking you home to be my wife.” “Joseph!” She hugged me as tight as she could. Mom, I did not realize she was so strong. I told her what I’d been planning. “We’ll go to Rabbi Ben-Ezer’s house this week and have him perform the ceremony.” I know it was awful sudden, Mom, but I figured the sooner we got married the better it would be for her, and me, and the baby. “Mary, even if our friends don’t come, at least you and I can pledge our love before God.” I paused. “I think my Mom will be there. And maybe your friend Rebecca would come if her dad will let her. How about your parents?” I could feel Mary’s tiny frame shuddering as she sobbed quietly. “Mary,” I said. I could feel myself speaking more boldly. “No matter what anyone says about you, I’m proud you’re going to be my wife. I am going to take good care of you. I’ve promised God that.” She looked up. I lowered my voice. “I had a dream last night, Mary. I saw an angel. I know.” The anguish which had gripped her face vanished. She was radiant as we turned away from the house and began to walk up the hill together. Just then her mother ran out into the yard. “Wait,” she called. She must have been listening from behind the door. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. “I’ll get your father,” she called, almost giddy with emotion. “We,” she cried as she gathered up her skirts. “We,” she shouted as she began to run to find her husband. “We … are going to have a wedding!” That is how it was, Mom. Thanks for being there for us. I will write again soon.
GRACE: Neva Schmid, Dean Walmsley
GLORIA DEI: Julie Bond, Wayne Fraass, Ernie Kahrs, Pat Rufenacht, Charlie Frerichs, Barb Namuth, Deann Larson, Richard Bruns, Della Weber, Jeanette Dean, Kimberly Valla Martinez, Marv Bartling, Dan Dickinson, Kelsey Watchorn
BLESSING: And may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and + give you peace. Amen.