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Joseph’s Prayer

by Frank Powell

God, I lay here tonight, underneath a blanket of stars, in the silence of night, and I feel overwhelmed. Jesus is here. But I feel unprepared for the task before me. I’m a father now. I’ve wanted this for a long time. But as I stare into his eyes, I feel inadequate. Pangs of fear rise up from deep in my being. Who is this child? Is he yours, God? An angel said he was and the angel appeared to Mary too and told her the same thing. But he looks like a baby, an infant, like every infant since Adam. If he is yours, what a burden I must bear. As I stroke the crown of his head, feel the warmth of his flesh, am I caressing eternity? How do I parent the offspring of God? How will I know what to do? What to say?

Mary seems so certain. She is. I know why you chose her. Her confidence is quiet, but as strong and vast as the mountains. It never wavers. When she became pregnant, I worried so much for her. You know this, God. You know how I lost sleep over her safety, how I feared what those in our community might say or do when they found out. Time after time, though, Mary sensed my anxiety and she would lay beside me and place her arm around my shoulder and tell me everything was going to be okay. And she believed it. She trusted you from the beginning. She knew. I feared. 

Everything did work out. It always does. Why don’t I trust you more, God? Why did you choose me? I know why you chose Mary. Why did you choose me? How do you raise the son of God? Who has a manual for such a thing? There should be a manual. Oh, I feel the weight, Father. Help me. I’ve tried to live my days in our presence. I’ve followed the Law with diligence. I’ve tried with all my being to lead my family in your ways. You know these things. And maybe this is exhaustion speaking. Exhaustion, though, often pulls down the walls of our flesh, and we can see and express our innermost thoughts with clarity and honesty. Maybe that’s what I’m doing now. I need to know you’re here, God, that you won’t allow me to fail. I need to know you will protect this baby, this helpless infant, your offspring now bottled up in the flesh. How can this be? 

I know God, it is not for me to know your ways, but as I stare into the eyes of Jesus, I wonder what will become of him? What will become of him, God? Why is he here? I wish I knew. Mary told me all the things the angel told her, about him establishing a new kingdom and his kingdom lasting forever. Will my son become the savior of his people? Will Jesus finally free us from generations of tyranny and oppression? Am I looking into the eyes of our salvation? Oh, what a joyous thought, to worship you freely, to live without fear, like your people lived during the time of David. Could my son lead his people like David? What a sobering thought. And will you allow me enough years to witness it, to see my son on the throne? Oh, how I would love to see the liberation of our people. Would you grant me this, God?

I’m a simple man. I build things. I believe you gave me this gift, God, the gift of using my hands to cut and mold and shape things, to create order from chaos. But, I don’t know how to lead people. Who will teach Jesus to lead, to inspire a following large enough to overthrow a government. Do you teach him that, God? I can’t teach him that. I can show him how to square the corners of a building, but I can’t show him how to galvanize a crowd.  

You’re the almighty, the everlasting God, never ceasing in your love, never failing in your faithfulness. You’re the alpha and the omega. I believe these things in the innermost parts of my being. But tonight, these truths hang on my soul by a thread. Tonight, in the wake of this most mysterious child’s birth, I wade in a pool of uncertainty. 

And maybe that’s where you are, God. Maybe you’re in the uncertainty. Maybe you didn’t choose me because I’m special. Maybe you chose me to show yourself to the world, to prove to future generations that you don’t need the wealthy or the elite to establish your kingdom on earth.

I’m not worthy to be Jesus’s father. Who is worthy of such a thing? I don’t know how, but certainly not me. Even so, may your will be done, God, on earth as it is heaven. I don’t know if I’ll sleep much tonight. I can’t take my eyes off of him. Tonight, he sleeps, wrapped in the arms of the woman I love, this child you gave us, Jesus, the child you say you will save the world, alter the course of the future generations. One day, he will sit on a throne.

But tonight, he sleeps. Tonight, as I gaze at the stars, I feel blanketed by my ancestors, and that gives me hope. They will go with me on this impossible journey, and know you will go with me as well. Tonight, even though I doubt, I will also trust. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I lean on you, God, the one who controls the future. You see all the days of this child, my son, your son? Jesus. You know how they unfold. So, I give my doubts to you. I give his days to you. I love him so much. I love you, God.

Amen.

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