Today, for some strange reason, my heart is with Joseph. He just watched as things unfolded. How confusing it must have been. God must have given him some profound clues for him not to simply toss Mary to the law and find another, unblemished wife. Joseph must have been able to see clues to a different reality.
What must it have been like for Joseph to watch this all unfold? What kind of thing must it have been to be a man, a perhaps very regular man of the first century in which women and children were sub-human and dogs were meat, like rats? What must it be like to have your teenage (barely) betrothed suddenly pregnant with some outrageous story about an angel? Then what must it have been like to have one of those angels visit you and ask you not to discard your fiancé? Joseph, says scripture, decided not to allow Mary to be stoned to death by her family and townspeople. Joseph decided not to have her thrown out into the streets to become either a slave or a prostitute. And how has the church so thoroughly re-written this gruesome, true story into queen of heaven, virgin in flowing robes, a rose ere blooming?
There sits Joseph, confused, having agreed to what the angel asked of him, going through with the marriage, not consummating it until after the birth of this child whose provenance was spoken by divine intervention but – WAS that an angel? Was it just a dream? What is happening?
I am convinced that most of the horror on our planet comes from men, and the deep, unconscious anxiety they hold at not having been chosen, trusted to grow and produce from their body, life. This insecurity plays out in greed, power-mongering and war. It’s not just men. Women were nazi death-camp guards too and some were horrific. But in general, what the church has sculpted as itself over the last five centuries is male, mostly, and it has denigrated the feminine or so glorified and fetishized it in Mary as to seem to modern men and women to be rather twisted, hampering evangelism.
What if we were to take Mary off her throne? And what if we were to go to the back corner of that stable and kindly, gently, firmly take Joseph by the hand and lead him in to where the action is? What if we were to honor the reality that, perhaps not perfectly, a mother and a father raised a boy to become a man, able to discern voices, understand a confusing calling, manage astounding capacity to make change and then, with so much spiritual depth allow the silence of the Garden of Gethsemane to hang there – no rescue, no reversal, no word from God to stop these horrible proceedings and no promise that all would be well?
Mary looked for clues – an angel – a cousin – a star. Joseph looked for clues – a decision – an angel – a star. Jesus looked for clues – water turned to wine – a friend raised from the dead – a bright light on a mountain hike. You and I look for clues. That is what we do. What they did we still do. We look for clues. “What do you want from me Lord, God of the Universe?”
The art of living the Christian life is not looking for the proof. The art of living the Christian life is looking for the clues.