Today is the feast day of Joseph, the father of Jesus (don’t ever say that adoptive fathers are not fathers). He is often known as Joseph of Nazareth, the place he made his home, rather than his own hometown Bethlehem; which is, in a sense, to honour the place of work in human dignity.
The readings for Morning Prayer today hold together Joseph’s family tree and his vocation. Isaiah 11:1-10 begins, “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse...” Christians interpret the shoot as Jesus, and the stump of Jesse as Joseph, descendant of (Jesse’s son) king David, whose family line had lost the kingdom, a tree cut down but with a living stump remaining. Matthew 13:54-58 records Jesus returning to his hometown of Nazareth, to be rejected as a teacher and wonder-worker, on the grounds that he is (only) the son of the carpenter.
So, Joseph is both tree and carpenter; and as Jesus’ father helps to shape him as fresh wood growing out of the past, and as wood that is harvested and worked for a purpose; shaped for an executioner’s frame, or to create an additional room in a family house.
To be a father is to provide roots and to train—which involves both shaping a life and equipping that person to continue to work with the grain of life. It is not confined to biology, but, rather, defined by commitment.
Joseph turns out to be both a teacher and a wonder-worker, if only his neighbours could see it. Today, I am praying for fathers, that they would share in the grace given Joseph of Nazareth.
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