December 15, 2017
When I was pastor at First Presbyterian in Monroe, like many churches, we had an annual Christmas pageant put on by the children of the church. Any of the children, no matter what age, could be in the pageant. The Fifth Graders, being the oldest, got the speaking parts, and any extra kids that showed up became angels and shepherds. It was always something of a madhouse, but still a high spot of the Christmas season.
One year, the little boy playing the part of Joseph—coincidentally, his name happened to be Joseph—had not made it to any of the rehearsals, so was not exactly up to speed about how things were going to go.
I need to explain the staging. The pageant is always held in the sanctuary. There is a low brick partition between the congregation and the choir. So the child playing the part of the angel Gabriel squats down on the organ bench hidden behind the brick partition until it’s time for the angel to make an appearance.
So on this occasion, clueless Joseph was fiddling with a hammer (to let us know that he was a carpenter), when all of a sudden up popped the angel Gabriel and called out, “Joseph, Joseph.” Well, little Joseph was taken completely by surprise, dropped his hammer, jerked his head around to see who was calling him. Of course, the audience burst out laughing.
But I’ve always thought that the real Joseph might have had a similar reaction. When the Joseph in the Bible found out that his betrothed was expecting a child that was not his, he had decided to “dismiss her.” He had no idea that an angel of God was going to tell him to do the unthinkable and marry her. And miracle of miracles, Joseph did what the angel called him to do. That’s pretty shocking.
Then again, God still calls people to do the shocking thing—love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, love the unlovable, forgive 70×7, show hospitality to the stranger.
This Christmas season, I want to seek to follow the example of Joseph and go where God calls me to go—even if it is some place totally surprising.
~ Chuck Williamson, Parish Associate