A prayer remembering Joseph

A pair of splintered hands open a clapboard door —
Unlike fitting nails to wood, you have no tools here.
Fire set, donkey fed, you take your time to lay her bed.
This would be no waiting-room delivery —
Your hands will hold him first.

This would be no waiting-room delivery.

In shadow and reverence
you encourage woman-partner to embrace,
her cocoa-colored glory.
When the child-mother says,
“This is my body given for you,”
you witness the blessing to be.

Weary from your own dream of angels
to this night shed we find you pacing unhoused,
pacing, not knowing the Palestines to come.

Will you be father to an orphan?
Do you complain of minimal spotlight?
Or are you our model servant,
a present witness to an undocumented birth?
Joseph, do you stand in the gap of terror?
While your son’s truth blunts a sharp mesmerism,
a nation’s consuming tribal chants,
earth-weeping for care.

Can you repair the breech of grief?
Affirming dignity over a legacy of economic slavery,
while medicines withheld from colonized nations
broker access to healing.

I grew up believing white people don’t die.

Would you dislodge demonic architecture?
So dense it equates separate-with-equal.
Young Jacob, a Methodist pastor in South Africa,
confided to me 20 years ago in Durban:
“I grew up believing white people don’t die.
Walls circle homes. And I have never seen their graves.”

Joseph, your prophet’s ardent nursing,
embraces the coming motherhood of God,
not another regime change,
but the birth of amnesty,
the Advent of God’s humanity,
among an empire’s incarcerated and sleepy.

So awake —
will you play with the child when all the seekers flee,
kneeling in the dust and sand with the Son,
loving him?


Editor's note: The Rev. Neal Christie is Assistant General Secretary for Education & Leadership Formation at the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society.

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