Fourth Sunday of Advent: Joseph tends the Fire

Preparing for the birth of Jesus, Joseph keeps watch.  He tends the warming fire, he cooks and washes. Yet in the decisive moment, even the ox and donkey have a better view than he. Joseph, the carpenter, takes second place: the one who cares for Mary and Jesus---the protector of a little family that is not even his own. 


"Joseph at the Nativity"

There he lies...
Is he God enough
to know that I am poor,
that we had no time
for a midwife, that swine ate
from this bed this morning?
If the angel was right, he knows.
He knows that Mary's swell
embarrassed me, that I was jealous
of her secret skyward smiles,
that now I want to run into these hills
and never come back.
Peace, peace, I've heard in my dreams.
This child will make you right.
But I can only stand here,
not a husband, not a father,
my hands hanging dumbly
at my sides.  Do I touch him,
this child who is not mine
and not mine?  Do I enter the kingdom of blood and stars?
 {Tania Runya, American, contemporary} exerpt

"Those Winter Sundays"

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze.  No one ever thanked him.
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices? 
 {Robert Hayden, African-American, 1913-1980}

credits: poem by Rachel M. Srubas in "Rediscovering Advent"  | "The Visitation" by Moretto da Brescia | Where God Wants to Be by Dietrich Bonhoeffer | "The Visitation" by Romare Bearden