Matthew 1:18-25: Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
It’s Christmas Eve and I am tired. It’s been a tough couple of weeks and i have to work on Christmas Day. I spent this day resting, doing laundry, and cleaning my kitchen floor. Not what I would call rest but it’s the only day i have off right now. Being a chaplain is a journey, sometimes a rough one but it’s a journey.
Every Advent and Christmas, I think about the story of Jesus’s birth. Of course I do but Jesus isn’t the only person in the story i focus on. It’s not Mary, either. I focus on Joseph. He is a remarkable man – a servant, who didn’t have to be there.
Can you imagine being Joseph? You’re engaged to be married and your fiancé becomes pregnant….and not by you. And not only is she not pregnant by you but she’s pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Can you even imagine being Joseph in a world of gossip and judgement? I can only imagine what his buddies were saying to him, making fun of him, telling him he wasn’t “man” enough, “holy enough” and his fiancé got pregnant by someone else.
Joseph had every right to leave this scenario. In fact, he had planned on it. Joseph was going to dismiss her quietly and move on with his life. He was ridiculed, embarrassed, and no longer the important person in Mary’s life. Between the ridicule and spotlight, it had to be a lonely time, too. He had every right to leave.
Well, he didn’t. An angel appeared to him and said, “…do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” Do not be afraid? What does that even mean? How in the world can Joseph stand and face the crowd and face Mary?
He loves her and God loves him. God loved Joseph enough to give him Jesus as a son. God loved Joseph enough to give Mary as his wife. God trusted Joseph enough to have him raise Jesus as his own. God loved Joseph enough to call him to be the earthy father of Emmanuel.
Chaplaincy is hard. Being a Trauma and ED Chaplain is harder. There are days I want to leave and I feel I have every right to leave. You’d be surprised at the judgement, criticism and pressure placed on a chaplain, an individual called by God to care for people at their darkest times. You’d be surprised at how lonely it can be, too.
There are days I want to leave. I see too much. I feel too much. There are times I care too much. What I encounter on a regular basis is incredibly challenging. I don’t wish it on my enemy. I don’t wish it on myself.
Then I remember God called me to this role. As demanding, difficult and as lonely as it is, I can’t leave. I don’t remember an angel appearing to me and saying, “don’t be afraid,” but I am reminded every single day that God gives me what I need to get through. There are many days I leave the hospital and wonder how in the world did i get through this day, then I remember – God got me through it.
Even though he had every right to leave, Joseph stayed. When I am having a tough day, I remember the commitment Joseph made to take a journey into the call that God gave him. There are days I want to leave. I can’t take it anymore. Then I remember that Joseph stayed and God asked me to do the same.