"Joseph" : Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas

Joseph has always fascinated me. Certainly, he was pious and from all accounts, he seems to have been older than Mary and very much in love with her. Why else would Joseph have gone through with the marriage and taught Jesus the craft (for a practical man, the means to hold body and soul together) that he had followed all his life? He could have refused—made the choice to say no to his dreams and intuitions. But he said yes and in doing so he opened up a way for himself, his son, and his people. For while Jesus was learning from Mary how to love the land and the people, Joseph was teaching by example what would become the cornerstone of Jesus’ ministry: forgiveness.

Joseph knew his people. More than likely, he had haggled with them over the price of his materials and the work he had done. He also knew that while Jesus was growing up, he would be taunted/teased, and eventually someone would say, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” But Joseph was willing to bear the shame of being called Mary’s cuckold. Which is probably why Jesus could be so sympathetic/ generous with the woman “caught in adultery” and could say, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.”

Although Jesus would later abandon his father’s trade and become an itinerant preacher, he had a sound basis to pursue a spiritual life. Jesus's message that God was like loving father and not the terrible, unmerciful Yahweh that many religious zealots had created can be seen in the words that Jesus used to describe God: the intimate word "Abba".

You don't become a father on the basis of gender or having progeny--you have to learn how to become one. Many of the lessons Jesus learned about the relationship between fathers and sons, which he related to his relationship with God, could only have been learned from the example of Joseph.


He could feel the cold coming on:
flurries of snow melted on his beard.
First his toes, fingers, climbing up his head,
numbness branched across his shoulders,
sagging under the burden.

How many years would he be given with his son
to see the lilies of Capernaum bud, flower, wither,
die and be reborn under the unrelenting sun,
the steady flame by which his life had burned?

He snapped dry twigs under his feet,
turned to his young bride, asleep on the floor--
after all the struggles, so beautiful by the hearth.

Calmly, he stoked the coals, and the embers
greeted his hands, his prayer with a promise
that this warmth, like peace, would live as long as his desire.


meika said…
Jesus would later abandon his father’s trade and become an itinerant preacher
You know I have never thought of him as a drop-out before, but it explains all that reject-the-world asceticism one sees in so much Christianity.
Anonymous said…
I hope that the "warmth, like peace," does continue to "live as long as his desire." Boy, you bring the chap alive, don't you?

This is a most original form of looking at people that we already know. It is good.

It's like having yet another take on the red, red rose option, and pulling it off.

It's like writing about a stone and giving it originality. Bravo to you.
Geoffrey Philp said…
Dear Meika,

I'm not too sure about the "reject the world ascetiscm."

Marlon James in post entitled "Losing my Religion" says, "Christianity began as a renewing of the mind...I love the Jesus of the bible. He was actually quite scandalous, fraternizing with whores and tax collectors, cursing trees, praising lowlifes, hanging out with women, staying homeless, remaining single, calling himself the fulfillment of prophecy, educating leaders in the dark, giving over to rash emotions like fury and mirth, sometimes at the drop of a hat."

That is not a man who has rejected the world. I think Jesus chose his vocation rather than blindly following what his culture, daddy, or mommy said.
It's what we all have to do to find our true calling--what Joseph Campbell called finding your bliss and pursuing it no matter what.

Geoffrey Philp said…
Give thanks, Rethabile. Give thanks!
Mad Bull said…
Very interesdting indeed... I am going to link this.
Geoffrey Philp said…
Give thanks, Mad Bull.

1 Love,
meika said…
I'll grant the bliss, but as a drop out myself (no I'm not christ) I just never saw the conneciton before.
Geoffrey Philp said…
Meika, we all learn in different ways. Bob Marley was a dropout and I'm still learning from him...

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