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Matthew 2:13-23 – a sermon for Christmas 1A

We also know that Joseph is descended from the house of David, which allows Jesus to be the fulfillment of prophecies that the Messiah would come from King David’s line. The Bible tells us that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, but the Bible also references Joseph as Jesus’ “father.” This creates a level of uncertainty about Joseph’s role. Then Joseph disappears completely from the Gospels after the time Jesus is left behind at the temple, when he is twelve years old. Joseph’s absence from accounts of Jesus’ public life has been interpreted by most biblical scholars to mean that he died before Jesus began his teaching and public ministry. Our opportunities to get to know Joseph within the biblical witness are quite few.

Throughout history, church historians and theologians often lifted up Joseph as an example of the kind of father who parented “by love and service.” Early Franciscan scholars downplayed Joseph’s lack of biological connection to Jesus, instead focusing on the obvious parental nature of his actions. Jean Gerson, a leader in the 15th century French church, characterized Joseph as giving “all the care that a good and loyal and wise father can and should show to his true son.” Joseph speaks to us today because “after Mary, he was the first Christian, a model believer,” says Father Joseph Chorpenning of St. Joseph’s University.

Today’s scripture passage is the Biblical “version” of post-partum depression. After the warmth and glow of Christmas – the excitement caused by the arrival of a new baby – today is the Sunday that reality sets in. For most new parents, this is when you discover that your meek and mild infant is a terribly colicky baby. This is when you wonder how someone who weighs less than ten pounds can truly turn your whole house, your whole life, completely upside down. You think you will never sleep again, you will never spend time with your spouse again, and you will never have an adult conversation again.

But for Mary and Joseph, the situation is much more dramatic. They discover that their baby, meek and mild, is causing political uproar and Herod, the leader of the nation, is attempting to murder all baby boys. Instead of spending time getting to know their son, they suddenly find themselves as refugees, struggling to protect their child in a strange land. It is not a natural or ordinary start to their family life. Read more

baby napping

On the Seventh Day, God Napped

And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. ~Genesis 2:1-2 (NRSV)

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
~Psalm 121:3-4 (NRSV)

baby nappingI was sure I’d be back in church within one week of my daughter’s birth—not as a pastor, but as one of the faithful, gathered in the pews, free to worship God without fear.

No worries about the Sunday School program, the evening youth group meeting, the prayer I was about to deliver, or the pile of emails waiting in my office. For my six blessed weeks of parental leave, Sunday would once again be Sabbath, a day of rest and reflection, a day to savor with my new little family, a day to relax in the good graces of God’s satisfaction with creation.

And so, a week and half after her birth, with twenty minutes to go before the service began, I found myself sitting on the couch with an adorably decked out baby. I, however, was wearing my pajamas and hadn’t
showered in a few days. Getting to church was not going to happen. I never made it back to worship services consistently until I returned to full-time work six weeks later.

As I began ministry, the idea of Sabbath was important to me. It was easier for the first few years after I was ordained because I was in a Monday-Friday para-church position. Sunday was Sabbath. I went to my
church, I relaxed a bit, I prepared myself for the week of ministry ahead of me.

Three months after beginning a new position in congregational ministry, I was pregnant. As a new mother and a new congregational pastor, I began to wonder how this whole Sabbath thing was going to work. Not only did I face the task of carving out a day other than Sunday, I had to guard this day with my life, keeping back the tasks and worries of ministry to allow for some open space. Plus, many of the ideas I’d had for my Sabbath seemed completely impractical with a newborn. Long walks in the woods surrounded by the glories of creation? Not if it interfered with nap time. A strict interpretation of “no work?” It sounds great, but try telling a new mom that breastfeeding or formula-mixing, not to mention changing diapers, does not count as “work.” Read more