Unheard of - Joseph the father of Jesus

There’s something weird about being a parent.

The first moment you hold that child in your arms, you’re instantaneously bonded and committed; willing to do anything and everything to do everything you can for that child.

Both of my kids were born via C-section, so I’ve had the unique experience of being present with them alone during those first moments of their life. Without getting too graphic, after a C-section birth, at least in my experience, the pull the baby out then show her quickly to mom, before continuing to close up mom’s belly.

With Lexi, I actually sat for several minutes rocking her before mom came back. And, though Jaxson had to spend an hour or two with oxygen, I think I was the first to hold him.

Those were both magical moments.

And, something happened in those moments where a switch was flipped inside my head and my heart—I was willing to do anything and everything for my children.

I remember back when Lexi was about 3 years old, she was attending preschool that allowed the kids to bring one comfort item from home each day.

Back then, her favorite comfort item was a little stuffed giraffe. Every night, she’d fall asleep cuddling that little giraffe, wanting it close to her as she drifted off.

One morning, I got her up and ready to go, out the door to preschool—and we brought along her stuffed giraffe. When we got to her classroom, I had her put her giraffe in the class bin with her classmates items, and I gave her a hug and wished her well for the day.

Later that same day I picked her up.

The only problem was that after the formal preschool day was over, all the kids just played together in a larger room. So, out of sight and out of mind, I went only into the main room, checked her out, and left—without the giraffe!

Later that night, when Corinna and I were trying to put her to bed—we realized the giraffe was missing, and Lexi was quite upset about it. We tried to console her with other items, but it was no use. She wanted the giraffe.

Fortunately, it was a night Corinna wasn’t working, so I jumped in the car, drove down to the preschool, hoping against hope.

As luck would have it, her preschool was in a church nearby, and when I showed up, the worship band was practicing. I walked right into the building, right to her classroom, and grabbed the giraffe! I was the hero when I got home!

Parents will do anything for their children.

I remember a couple stories from my childhood—one being me playing with a little toy car in the back of the family caravan. Now, if you remember back in the day the Dodge Caravan, I think we had a 1984 edition—it had these push open windows. So, if you can imagine, I’m playing with a toy car along the edge of the window as my mom is driving me and my sisters through the streets of New York City.

Sure enough, we hit a bump or something and the car falls out the window. Somehow, I convinced my mom to pull over, stop the car, and go out and retrieve my toy car from the middle of the street!

My dad tells a similar story I don’t quite remember—perhaps fortunately for me!

Back in the 1980’s in New York City, The New York Yankees gave out free tickets to pastors and clergy. My dad, being a pastor, got some free tickets and took me, to a ballgame.

It just so happened that the game he took me to—and I don’t know if this was intentional or accidental—but the game he took me to the Yankees were giving out baseball gloves to all the kids in attendance.

My dad has always loved free stuff given out at baseball games!

So, anyway we get there I guess, and go through the turnstiles, but instead of receiving a glove for his son, he was rebuffed—apparently clergy passes didn’t get the same perks.

So, if you can imagine, little 5/6 year old me is standing there, watching all these other little kids get ball gloves, and him trying to explain to me why I can’t get one.

I’d hate to ever find myself in that same position with Jaxson!

I’m not sure if it was later that day or later that week, but he went out and bought me a glove as soon as he could!

This is what we do as parents—we’ll do anything we can for our children.

And maybe you’re not a parent—maybe you’re an aunt, an uncle, a grandparent, even a friend—but I can’t believe that if your little niece or nephew or grandchild came up to you with puppy dog eyes needing something that you wouldn’t fall all over yourself to do whatever you could to help that child in your life!

And, if you don’t have a child in your life—you need to find one!

There are countless schools, non-profits, and organizations who would love to have your help.

As much as I dramatize my life as a parent, as much as I’ll complain about the stress and anxiety of raising kids, I always want to have children in my life. Whether it’s their sense of wonder, their energy, or their love—we all could use the goodness of a child in our life!

And I’d bet if you’re here today, whether you’re a parent, a grandparent, uncle or aunt, you’ve experienced that for yourself. And I’d bet, the first time you met that child—whether it was your child, your grandchild, your nephew or niece, you knew you’d do whatever you could to help that child live a happy and healthy life.

I’d imagine those same feeling that stirred within our own hearts the first time we held, saw, interacted with our child—are the same feelings that stirred within the heart of Joseph, the father of Jesus, the first time he held the little baby Jesus.

Remember, according to the Bible, Joseph wasn’t the biological father of Jesus!

There was that whole thing about the virgin birth!

Regardless, Joseph is committed to this new life. He does everything he can to provide for Mary, the mother of Jesus.

And I’d bet, the first time he held the new born baby in his arms—he knew then and there—no matter the circumstances of the conception—this was his child and was going to do everything he could to care for that child.

Now, if you remember, because of the circumstances of his conception, Jesus was no ordinary child!

(The Magi see the star, ask Herod, worship baby Jesus, warned in dream)

They were warned in a dream not to return to tell Herod about the new baby—even though Herod had explicitly asked them to.

Paul will talk more about Herod next week, but for now, suffice it to say that Herod wasn’t a good guy and definitely did not want the best for that new child.

Let’s pick up the story in Matthew 2:13-15 (read)

This week, we’re starting a new series called “Unheard of.” We’re looking at a familiar story—the infancy of Jesus—and trying to listen to some voices we may have never heard of before.

Because sometimes, it’s the stories, voices, or perspectives we’ve never heard of that have the most to teach us. And most of the time—these are the hardest voices to hear.

In 21st century life, there is so much noise. Every day is just another torrent of information pouring into our senses. From TV and radio, to social media, to newspapers and magazines, we’ve got so much competing for our attention, so many different voices trying to be heard, that either we find it all to be inaudible noise, or we only listen for the loudest, clearest voice.

The problem is, when we only listen for the loudest, when we can’t decipher individual voices amongst the noise, we miss out on the voices we really need to hear.

Joseph is one of those voices we really need to hear.

And, I know that might come as a surprise to some, because when we think of Joseph the father of Jesus, we often tend to think of Joseph as this middle-class white guy living in the suburbs, with his own custom-carpentry business. Rather than the poor, migrant, low-income, middle-easterner he actually was.

And, being a man of limited resources, when a threat came to his beloved child, he did the only thing he could do—he ran with Mary and the baby to a strange land; Egypt.

This past week there was a lot discussion on social media whether or not Jesus was a refugee.

Some misinterpret and think this question is regarding the journey to Bethlehem.

Others think since Egypt was technically part of the Roman Empire, Joseph was simply taking his family on a cross-country trip.

Whether or not Joseph and his family meet the strict UN designation of what a refugee technically is—in my opinion and the opinion of many more educated than me—the Holy Family was a refugee family.[1]

And I think when we understand Joseph and the Holy Family in that regard—that changes everything.

When we understand the Holy Family as a refugee family, we hear Joseph’s voice in a whole new light.

Perhaps we can imagine him waking suddenly in the middle of the night or perhaps bursting out of his slumber early in the morning, trying not to disturb the little baby, but trying to convey the urgency of the situation in hushed tones to Mary who was in all likelihood completely confused about what was happening.

Had not the Magi just visited? Had not Joseph just finished putting the crib together? And Mary neatly arranging the gifts of the gold, frankincense, and myrrh?

And now, early in the wee hours of the morning she’s trying to make out the whispered words of Joseph as her mind spins, sensing the urgency of the situation.

And while we can’t go back in time and hear the harried voice of Joseph as he tries to rouse his family from slumber, hurriedly packs up some items, and rushes out the door before soldiers appeared on their doorsteps…

We can hear Joseph’s voice in the Syrian, fleeing a years-long civil war in his own country.

We can hear Joseph’s voice in the Central American, escaping the incessant violence and despair in his own country.

We can hear Joseph’s voice in the Mexican, sending his beloved child out on their own to travel across the desert in hopes of a better life in America.

But, to hear Joseph’s voice in their voice—we really have to listen.

We have to listen above the noise of the endless stream of entertainment and distraction through which we can tune out all else into oblivion.

We have to listen through the voices of racism and prejudice, those who refuse to acknowledge the humanity of these others.

We have to listen through the commotion of our own heart and minds, as we try to rationalize how it’s okay to only worry about ourselves.

But I think, if we really open our ears, if we really open our heart, we would hear Joseph’s voice in our voice, his heart in our heart.

We’d remember those times we saw our child, our niece, our friend’s child hurting—and we knew in that moment we’d do anything we could to help our child.

In fact, I think it’s when stop for a moment and listen to our own heart and mind—we’ll hear Joseph’s voice—and we’ll hear the voice of those crying out even today.

I came across this poem the other day on social and I think it fits:

If I were to figure out who I am in the gospel story,

I would say I’m not Joseph.

I’m at best some random person in Egypt living in a land of safety, while those outside flee to something I get by chance.

So, I think about how unwilling I am to face this worldwide reality

and I wonder—what would have happened—if Egypt—blocked Joseph at the border.[2]

As powerful as those words are, if I may be so bold this morning, I think we can imagine…

Because we see it everyday in the face of the Syrian migrant, stranded indefinitely in a migrant camp.

We see it in the tears of children separated from their families at the border and sleeping on a cold, cement floor behind metal bars.

We see it in the eyes of migrant parents, desperate to be reunited with the children who were taken from their arms.

So, as powerfully as the words of that poem are, it may stop too short.

We can imagine what would have happened if Joseph was blocked at the Egyptian border—because that’s what’s happening at our very own border.

So, we need to listen to those unheard of voices, those unheard of perspectives, those unheard of people.

Because when we listen to those voices, when we hear those people, I think we’ll find that they resonate with the voices of the Holy Family.

So often, we as Americans—and especially as white Americans—often most identify with Mary and Joseph, when in reality, as the poet said, those we have the most in common with might be the nameless Egyptian.

And so the choice is ours;

When some desperate family at our door—or at our border—comes knocking, the choice is ours how we respond.

To hear in their voices the voice of Joseph, the voice of ourselves, who would do whatever it takes to take care if their child.

Or to hear the voices of the callous, of careless, of hateful.

Which voices will you listen to?

I hope we’ll give an ear to those unheard of.

[1] Thomas Troeger

[2] Reed Dressler

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