Connect with us @
Share
For the Fourth Sunday in Advent: St. Matthew 1.11-18
Joseph Drearest, Joseph Mine or
“What’s in a Name?”
Especially for my mother, Neva Carol Emanuelson

The_Nativity2-854x990

Oh isn’t this fun, isn’t this droll?
Mary, engaged to be merrily
married to Joseph, but:
Mary, with child, except
not
by her intended spouse.
“A star fell on my house,
and something ruptured —
my eardrum,”
claims the head of
the no-longer maiden,
Mary,
our not very
lady of
the ultra-wrong-side-of-the-tracks.
Joseph!

Now you’ve heard
what Mary says occurred.
Yes, it may (perhaps?)
be so . . . but
is it likely?

No,
and not by a long shot either.
And Joseph,
“being a righteous man and
unwilling to expose
her to public disgrace
(let alone his own)
planned to dismiss her
quietly.”

Well, that’s not exactly what
someone righteous
in the bible-believing sense
would or should
do.
Scripture is clear
and we hear – that –
if
a man discovers
evidence that
his betrothed is
less than virgin
(and what more evidence do you need than this outlandish pregnancy)
then, the command in Deuteronomy –
“they shall bring the young woman out to the entrance of her father’s house, and the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has made of her father’s house a brothel.”

But that’s not what
Joseph does.
So very not manly
nor macho of him.
Apparently not very big on
preserving his male honor,
Joseph is,
not very
big on keeping
the family good name
from disgrace,
not very keen on keeping . . .
the Most
Divine
Law.

And this is? . . .
what’s Matthew’s book say . . .
righteousness?
But, at least, we will pray,
he have the good sense not
to marry this
dishonored,
dishonorable,
and dishonoring
damn damsel,
the source of his
(and rationality’s forever)
distress.

But then in a dream –
the screaming scheme, he says,
of one of the angelic host:
“Do not be afraid
to take Mary as your wife,
for the life
conceived in her
is
of the Holy Spirit.”

Well.
Maybe.
Or
Maybe not.
But, Joseph,
you know
what your world
of course
will say
about
you,
anyway:
“You
take her for your wife
in the midst of
this mess
and you’re less than
a wuss: a weakling.”

You say: you’ve at least
been cuckolded by a
Holy Spirit.

We say: nudge, nudge,
wink, wink.

But you think that
you’ll marry her
just the same.
A pansy.
A fool and a tool.
We’ll sing it for you
even if you don’t want us to:
“You’ve dreamed the impossible dream.”
So then
Now you think that
by assuming the male
prerogative to name the child,
to say what the child shall be,
you think that
by that you’ll salvage
your dignity?

“It’s Jesus,” you say
in having your way.
“Yehoshua.
He will save.”
And this
the cross
with it’s pierced
body
is
salvation?
To let it all just be,
like this?

Ah, me –
no, a better name:
He shall be
an enemy,
an invitation
to anarchy
. . . and chaos.
An affront to
our sense
of integrity,
not to mention
our sacred morality.
The illegitimate child of Mary
displayed,
an affront
to
good taste and decorum.

Just you wait.
The ugly statues are gonna be
legion and deadly.
He will save?
But it shall only come to pass
that at last that:
A scandal is still a scandal.
Lipstick on a pig and all that, doncha just know.
And as far as
the name
Emanuel
goes –
this child,
God with us?
No way, José.

Next they’ll be telling us
he’ll be born in a barn.
Next thing it’ll be
God sniffling and crying,
God croupy and poopy,
God bleeding and dying –
and one in this list of six
attributes isn’t even in spell-check –
so
Joseph,
you’re wrong.

What you’re doing is not right
and definitely
not might.
It’s as if –
as if a person were
to strike you on one cheek and
you only just turn and
offer not
your fist but
the other
cheek that is, and
compounding it
to say,
“I’ll pray
for you, and
I’ll love you and
I’ll wish you
‘Be well.’”

If this is
God with us,
here comes
an end
to masculine,
muscular
religion.

Oh Joseph,
how could you?
How could you –
not demand
better from
that damned
angelic
dream?
Why did you not
demand
at least one
important
and elegant
proof – that
what Mary had done,
that
what you were to do,
and that
what you were to name
Him –
is
actually
most assuredly
and undeniably
God’s will?

Do you surely suggest that
we are now to exchange
for just-the-facts-Ma’am,
a Dream
and a Vision
and a Promise:
that?

Do you suggest that
we now and
all our days call
trusting
in the unreal – over
our devotion to
the most honorable
and measurable real
righteousness?

Are you suggesting,
Joseph, that:
Love
is Better
than Law?

Oh Joseph,
how could you so
surrender
all that is
most manifest, dear, and clear?
“Ah, Joseph dearest,
Joseph ridiculous, there
but for the grace of God
go I,” said I.

Then.
But the joke, in the end, was
on me, on us, on all of us,
us now
cuckolded too
and made the fool
and by the Holy Spirit’s tool
of water in a pool –
and there by God’s grace now do
go me and do
go you, for us
the divine
in bread and wine, and
from this doggerel-ed
illogical story we
shall come to put
our trust in Thee,
Emanuel,
You God With Us
and for us
and in us too,
Emanuel
to tell and to all:
All shall be well and
All things shall be well and
Every manner of thing shall be well
except in hell that is,
where, you may safely say,
everything
is now and forever in
disarray,
its walls all
fallen
and its late gates
making such
a lovely to-warm-the-hearts-by
pyre of fire
for this
the longest night of the year.

And so,
now
this we say,
Thanks be
to God,
in the Name
of the Father, and
of the Son, and
of the Holy Spirit.

AMEN.