4th Sunday of Advent, 2013: The candle of love

Pastor: We have a special guest to help us light the 4th Advent candle today, the candle of Love. Someone we all know from the Christmas story who’s in all of our nativity scenes—Jospeh of Nazareth. Welcome to Jerome church, Joseph. Most everyone knows a couple of things about you, Joseph. We know you were a carpenter and how surprised you were when Mary gave you the big news about the baby.

Joseph: Yes, that news was really hard to wrap my mind around since we weren’t married yet. I almost lost it. But you know, once I got over that shock, I was more blown away by something even more incredible.

Pastor: Wait a minute! What could possibly be more surprising than a virgin birth?

Joseph: Well, think about it. Look at me. Do I look like a prime candidate for someone to raise God’s son?

Pastor: Well, I wasn’t going to say anything, but now that you brought it up, not really. I guess Dr. Phil might have been a better choice!

Joseph: Yes, or even someone who could afford to raise that special son in comfort and provide a good education for him. How about you, Pastor? Think how much better the schools are in Dublin than they were in Nazareth.

Pastor: Good point. I’ll get back to you on that one. But seriously, why do you think God chose you and Mary? Did everybody else turn him down?

Joseph: I’ve asked myself that a lot. We were poor as church mice – didn’t have two shekels to rub together. And we were in Bethlehem because of the new Roman tax system that was going to take a big bite out of what little we had. It made no sense.

Pastor: So, how did you make peace with the whole idea?

Joseph: I had this dream and God told me it would be OK. He said people would call our baby’s name Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” When I heard that I remembered how God has always been with people who needed him the most – like the Hebrew slaves escaping from Egypt, or the Exiles in Babylon. God knows that the meek and lowly need help the most. For years and years, my people waited for the Messiah to come. We believed that when the Messiah comes there will be no more suffering. But as I thought about all that history, I realized that’s not it. The truth is that God loves all of his children, especially those who need love the most. God chose simple peasant people like Mary and me to be Christ’s parents to show the world what God’s love means. It’s in places like Bethlehem, exactly where there is suffering, that’s where the Messiah comes.

Pastor: Where there is suffering, that’s where the Messiah comes. (pause) Joseph, thank you for helping us better understand the depth of God’s love. Would you do us the honor of lighting the Candle of love as we sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel?”

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