Thursday, March 19, 2015

Homily for St. Joseph, Guardian of Jesus

When the Wise Men had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Matthew 2).  

Today we remember St. Joseph, guardian and protector of Jesus. Our Lutheran Confessions and our hymnals teach us to remember the saints. We do not worship the saints. We do not pray to the saints. We remember them. We give thanks for them so that we may imitate their faith and good works in our own lives. It’s not altogether unlike remembering your sainted parents who fell asleep trusting in the Lord God. But today we remember the parent and protector of Jesus, St. Joseph. 

The Holy Scriptures do not say much about St. Joseph but this is really much to his glory because the Christian life is not about being in the center of attention. Let us remember than Joseph was in a difficult situation. His fiancée had a bulging belly before they were married and you better believe people were talking. It would have been easier for him to leave this whole scandal behind him but he didn’t.  

He didn’t take his cue from this fallen world, where fathers so often give up on their wives and children. Rather he listened to the angel sent from God who told him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for the baby she carries in her womb is from the Holy Spirit.’ 

Later after Jesus is born the angel appears to Joseph again telling him to take his bride and young son down to Egypt to escape from Herod’s slaughter. He listened to the voice of angels. He protects Mary and infant son from danger. When the coast was clear he brought his young family to Nazareth and carved out a living as a carpenter. 

The Scriptures don’t say much about Joseph and this is why we should give him double the honor, because in his quiet life of labor and work he is a perfect picture of love and humility and fatherhood. We can assume his hands were rough and calloused from work in the shop. He ate his bread by the sweat of his brow. He adopted his son Jesus as a son in the truest sense. Joseph loved him and disciplined him. Brought him up in the fear and instruction of the Lord. Even the Son of God needed to learn the Scriptures. And Joseph taught Jesus a trade, how to use his hands for a greater good. And among the beams of wood, and the nails, and the pounding of a hammer, Jesus saw first hand a father’s love.  

Above all, Joseph loved his son by loving his mother, Mary, which of course is the best thing fathers can ever give their children. 

We know them as the holy family but they were more ordinary than we give them credit for. It should not be a scandal for us to consider that even they could lose their tempers too, say things that were less than thoughtful, and ride out all the ups and downs that life can throw at us.  

They were just as burned out as us. Worked just as hard or harder. Like us they lived in perilous times and yet there is Joseph quietly working in the background. There is much we can learn from St. Joseph. It seems fair to say that his life probably didn’t go quite as he had planned. He didn’t plan that his fiancée would be pregnant with the Messiah. He didn’t plan on all the ridicule from others, who if they did call his beloved the “virgin Mary” it would have been out of spite and cruelty. It’s something of a miracle that Mary was not stoned and it’s hard to imagine the fear and concern that Joseph went through. Joseph never planned that he would have to carry his wife and baby to a foreign land to escape Herod’s slaughter. Joseph never planned on the humiliation of his son’s birth in cold barn next to animals.

The wise men and Simeon told Joseph that his son would suffer a bitter death and die for the sins of the world and Joseph was told that a sword would pierce his dear wife’s soul. Joseph never could have predicted any of these things. It’s fair to say, his life was filled with trouble, and labors, and unexpected twists of fate. 

And no doubt you can relate because let’s face it – things haven't worked out quite according to plan for you either. The greatest lesson we learn from Joseph is that he quietly submits to the will of God. Perhaps Jesus learned from his father Joseph to pray “Not my will but your will be done.” Joseph submits to the will of God and trusts in Him. His ears are wide open to the voices of angels and you should listen to them too.

Today is remembered at the feast day of St. Joseph, guardian and protector of Jesus, and in many ways, your vocation, or “your calling,” is like his. This whole world, like Herod, is still trying to destroy Jesus and faith in Him. So be like Joseph, and guard and protect Jesus in your heart, and let him be born again ever in the manger of your soul. 

Like Joseph, labor and work in the place that God has entrusted you. Get out of the spotlight. Love one another in humble service and quietness. And be like the holy family, with all its ups and downs, knowing and being confident that God works all things together for good for those who love him. In the name of Jesus. Amen.        

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