My father-in-law, Roy Pomeroy was, like Mary’s husband Joseph, a carpenter. A few years ago Roy flew out from his home in Oregon to help us build some book shelves and a deck. Ok, he built the shelves and the deck. I tried to help but he kept me out of the way by sending me on errands for things we didn’t really need.  He was a smart man.

I loved watching Roy work. He had a careful plan. He knew exactly what he was going to do. He measured twice and cut once. He squared every corner, he plumbed every line. He was very attentive. I am sure Joseph would have liked working with Roy.

Joseph brought a carpenter’s approach to his understanding of the Bible. There were careful lines to draw and corners to be squared.  When he learned that Mary was pregnant and that he was not the father he decided to send her away.  He knew the law.  He was aware of the lines. 

Then a miracle occurred.  Joseph learned to think outside of the lines.  He came to the realization that he is not the one drawing the lines, squaring the edges. This time he is a tool in the hand of God.  He realizes that it is not his job to determine the rules.  It is not up to Joseph to decide where the lines need to be drawn.  That is God’s job. God uses Joseph to help bring the good news of Emmanuel, God with us, to the world.

An angel says to Joseph in a dream, “Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid…” Before this dream Joseph’s actions and choices were determined by fear. This carpenter who measured twice and cut once could not see beyond the limits of his own life but when he was able to dream with God his fear was conquered. And the old lines disappeared.

John Ortberg helped me see that Joseph says no to judgmentalism and yes to grace.  Joseph discovers that grace does what judgmentalism can never do: produce a changed life.

The gift of Christmas needed by every family everywhere is the joy of a life lived without fear.  It seems impossible to find a life like that in a dark and frightening world like ours but on Christmas Eve we will light the Christ candle and wait with hope for “a new and glorious morn.”

Merry Christmas to you all,