“Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh
Shadows of the evening, steal across the sky.
When the morning wakens, then may I arise
Pure and fresh and sinless, in Thy holy eyes.”
Those are words from a Lutheran hymn written by Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924. I know those words by heart for we would sing them in the Chapel at Hebron Academy in Maine during our Vesper service, every Sunday night.
You should be able to guess by now that our walk together today is taking place at the sunset of the day. Here in Hopkinton, New Hampshire the day has been cold but sunny. On a drive this afternoon, the snow-covered scenery looked much like what one might see on a Christmas card. The snow in the country remains pure white, different from snow in the city that becomes tarnished by the sand spread on the slippery roads and from the soot of exhaust from so many vehicles.
I wonder if your day has been as busy as mine. Retirement was to be a time of fewer obligations, but it is amazing to find just how busy your day can be. Of course, as my wife is still working, I have certain jobs I wish to do to make her life easier. The washing machine has been busy, and the dishes have been washed even though I did not get them put away. Ours is a shared marriage where we both work together to make life easier for the other. Part of my business today was working to put my woodworking shop in working order. That is a part of retirement that I have very much looked forward to – my woodworking projects. Therefore, I wish to have someone who was a carpenter, walk with us tonight – I would like you to get to know that man with me who is on our walk; it is Joseph, St. Joseph. There was a great debate in my mind of whom our first guest should be, but because I enjoy carpentry and building, I invited Joseph, Jesus’ father to walk with us.
In my shop, there is a wonderful figure of St. Joseph, and I have a beautiful painting of him that was given to me by my wife at Christmas of 2015. He was such a strong and wonderful man – known now as the patron saint of carpenters.
As a child, I had a children’s book about Jesus, and it showed Him in his father’s shop playing with the shavings that came flying off Joseph’s plane as he squared the edge of a board.
Joseph was such a kind and caring man; the perfect earthly father for Jesus. How thoughtful he was of Mary. Believing she was pregnant by someone other than himself, he did not turn her aside. He did not divorce her as was customary in his day – rather, he took her as his wife. To help her escape the unkind words of others in her community, he took her with him to Bethlehem when he traveled there for the necessary census and taxation.
How badly he must have felt when he could not find a room for them when they arrived at Bethlehem. How would you and I have felt if we had been in the same circumstances? It was in a stable among the animals that Joseph found a shelter for his wife. And in that night, tradition says, Jesus was born at twelve o’clock under a bright star shining over the town. Joseph’s heart was opened to that baby and recognized that under the terrible reign of Herod that they needed to flee to Egypt rather that to return to Nazareth.
Just look how his life changed out of his love for Mary and his child. He was not to return to his own city for a few years; some looked upon him as a foolish old man marrying a woman much younger and not carrying his child. He bore ridicule for loving his family. How could we not love and respect him? How wonderful it is to have him walk with us tonight. Oh, we will walk with him again. Perhaps someday, I will tell you about the story of the cherry tree and Joseph if you do not know that story.
As you go to bed this evening, remember Joseph. Let us ask that we might be like him – a man of great faith in God and a man open to God’s will. We should be so thankful for a man like St. Joseph who influenced the religious life of Jesus – a man faithful to his religion, and kind, so very kind and loving. As you and I go to sleep tonight may we, in our minds, smell the fragrant hay, may we see the bright star over Bethlehem and may we see that God-strong man, Joseph, smiling down on his wife and his newborn son; may we promise to try to be more like him.
In the morning, may we awake ready to walk the day as did Joseph, aware of the presence of a loving faithful God, and promising to walk a walk of kindness and love for those around us.
Thank you for walking another day, I guess rather this evening, with me.
“And may the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.”
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