Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the last Sunday before Christmas. The last candle lit is the Love candle. I have only one question, why are the Lectionary selections for this Sunday: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Isaiah 7:10-16; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25? Look them up and see where all the “love” is in them. Go ahead, I’ll wait, you can click on any of them and be taken to the Vanderbilt site to read them.
Okay, done? Good. Where are the words about love? The Bible isn’t exactly short on the notion. I took a quick look, using Biblegateway.com, to see how many times the word “love” appears in the NRSV? Any guesses? If you guessed 731 you are exactly correct. The word sort of appears in our text once, “To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7 NRSV) That’s it.
So what is a preaching person to do when the texts don’t match the Liturgical Sunday? You can always ignore the Lectionary, it isn’t a crime to use other texts but something not typical to me. You can ignore the Liturgical Sunday, also not a crime but something I work very hard to avoid. Or, you can look more carefully at the texts, especially the ones you know well, and see if there is something there you may not have noticed before . . . and this Sunday there was something.
When I was in college or seminary, I can’t remember which, we were asked in class which non-divine biblical character we would like to meet. There were the usuals–Paul, Moses–but when it came to my turn I said Joseph. Many of my classmates assumed I meant the Old Testament Joseph, the one who ran Egypt, but the one I meant was this week’s Joseph. Joseph, the step-father to Jesus. Imagine, out of all the millions of male humans on the world at the time it was Joseph who was chosen to be Jesus’ example of what it meant to be a male human, a man.
The sermons this week look at Joseph and what kind of person he was and conclude he was pretty good, as my friend Bill said, “Joseph was a stand-up guy.” Give one or both sermons a listen and let me know if your view of Joseph is changed or reinforced or left untouched for that matter.