Archive for category: Advent

Joseph – Defender of the Fatherless

This is a repost of a bit I wrote last Christmas for the Idea Camp/Orphan Care conference.


It was to be a quiet divorce. A silent separation.

I imagine the first conversation between Mary and Joseph, the one before the angel visited him. Mary coming to him with tears, saying, “I’m pregnant and I swear, I know it’s hard to believe, but this is the chosen one, the Son of God.” Joseph stood contemplating fact or fiction, excuse or explanation. He wondered whether to accept Mary’s word or hunt down the scoundrel — “who did this to my fiance?” Maybe he seethed.

Mary was so tender, so meek and mild, maybe delusional.

With an awkward sort of compassion, Joseph, “being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” It was the best he could do, he thought. The dream-state proclamation of Immaculate Conception changed it all — “the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit,” the angel said. And though it’s not in Scripture, I wonder if the Angel might have said, “and that child needs an daddy here on earth.”

There are so many themes in the Christmas story. Sometimes we get lost in angels, wise men, and mangers, and that’s assuming we make it past the wrapping and trim. But if we dig deeper, if we look closer, there are sub-themes that tie into the larger meta-narrative of scripture.

When Jesus chose to take our skin he first took residence in an unwed mother. He chose the potential of fatherlessness.

Scripture is clear, God will provide for the fatherless. In the Christmas narrative God provided by way of a simple carpenter, a man who had every right to secretly divorce his fiance. But that carpenter transcended occupation and became known as a biblical hero of our faith.

Certainly Christ is the center of this season. But for a season that also celebrates the bit characters like Mary and the wise men, perhaps we should consider the life of Joseph more closely. As a man he was pragmatic, certainly. But as a follower of the living God, he shed his pragmatism in obedience to a call, choosing to be called “daddy” by “God with us.” And in his decision to care for the fatherless, the world received the reconciling grace of God.


If you are looking for a way to engage the fatherless this Christmas season, might I suggest you look into child-sponsorship in Uganda? HELP, a grass-roots non-profit is doing some amazing work. It might be a fantastic family project.


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To John the Prophet (an Advent Post)

“Worship is the natural overflow of those who, with humble and grateful heart, understand their place in the universe and live in awe of a God who made it so.”
~Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year

This week, our small community of close friends lit the first Advent candle, a pecan pie Yankee Candle to be precise. We aren’t sticklers for formality. Kaitlin, holding her own swaddled baby, raised her voice a capella.

O come, o come, Emmanuel,” she sang. And we joined her.

We read the prophets, sank deep into knowledge that they spoke of the coming King. They foretold the feast day celebration, how Messiah would set things right.

And ransom captive Israel who mourns in lonely exile still until the son of God appears.

The prophets were speaking to ancient Israel, a stubborn people following their every whim. But they were speaking to us too. We who are equally stubborn. We who are perhaps more whimsical. The prophets tell us Messiah is coming; they shout it from timeless texts. They tell us that he will reorder all things, that the government will be upon his shoulders. Christ is coming to set us free, they say!

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel shall come to thee oh Israel!


John Blase wrote good words this week, asked the Adventists to move through contemplation and into sing-song carols of praise. And if you read between the lines, he encouraged loud ballyhooing, boisterous proclamations that Christ is coming and the darkness will not prevail. Yes, there are modern-day prophets who speak timeless words.

Advent is here. I’ll read and contemplate, sure. But I’ll also sing, “Rejoice! Rejoice!” and “Let every heart prepare Him room.” Because the Christ-child deserves worship, and not the star-spangled kind, but the kind that recognizes that He’s coming to reorder all things.

If you have a minute, would you swing by John’s place today? I think there might be something there for you.

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All Over Again

Salvation belongs to the Lord;
Your blessing be on your people!
~Psalm 3:8

Yesterday a pea coat mist hung at the base of the Appalachian foothills and stretched to the delta valley of the Mississippi. Through the veil we saw spent cotton fields, the remnants of Southern Gold hanging limply from their pods. Ribbons of birds, the migrating masses, filled the sky, and they swirled, ducked, and dodged every which way. They’ll make their way further south, wintering in Texas or northern Mexico. The southland is falling asleep, again. It’s this way every winter.

On the first Sunday of Advent, we travel home from north Alabama. We watch for twinkle lights and David’s star. The people of Palestine–Arkansas, that is–are putting out their Christmas decorations again.  Those big blow-up Santas and snow globes are visible from the highway and Jude asks, “is Santa really real, Daddy?” I turn and see that look of sincere child-like wonder and cannot bring myself to lie. “No,” I shake my head, “but Christmas is.”  He smiles.

The Carol of the Bells chimes on the radio and Amber turns in her seat. She sings every word to the boys, wearing her best choir face–eyebrows raised, mouth opening widely, head bobbing in rhythm.  They all giggle and when it’s over, Ian says, “sing it again, Mommy.” Luckily, we find the carol playing on another station and she repeats the scene.

Christmas is here,
bringing good cheer,
to young and old,
meek and the bold!

It’s the first Sunday of Advent, and as nature begins to groan with the onset of winter there is an awakening in the hearts of men. Some may misconstrue it, misdirect it.   But others see through, know that Christ is coming to the mangers of Palestine, Colorado Springs, and Des Moines.  They pursue the joy in it all, the traditions that point to new life.

“He’s coming,” they say, “all over again.”

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