It was from Joseph first I learned
of love. Like me he was dismayed.
How easily he could have turned
me from his house; but, unafraid,
he put me not away from him
(O God-sent angel, pray for him).
Thus through his love was Love obeyed.
The Child’s first cry came like a bell:
God’s Word aloud, God’s Word in deed.
The angel spoke: so it befell,
and Joseph with me in my need.
O Child whose father came from heaven,
to you another gift was given,
your earthly father chosen well.
With Joseph I was always warmed
and cherished. Even in the stable
I knew that I would not be harmed.
And, though above the angels swarmed,
man’s love it was that made me able
to bear God’s love, wild, formidable,
to bear God’s will, through me performed.
For those of us who believe in God, we likely also believe that God is the giver of life, the ultimate source of being who breathes us into existence and sustains our lives from one moment to the next.
But a belief in a life-creating and sustaining God doesn’t preclude the fact that we rely on our fellow humans to make it from one day to the next.
On a very basic level, our physical survival depends on the food grown by farmers, the medical attention offered by health care professionals, and the shelter provided by contractors, plumbers, electricians, and so on. Equally important, our emotional and spiritual survival depends on the love and care we receive from our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses, friends, teachers, pastors, co-workers, and therapists, to name of a few of the vital sources of strength and hope that we turn to on a frequent basis.
I love this poem by Madeline L’Engle because, while honoring the supreme being, it captures the need we have for other humans: “Though above the angels swarmed, / man’s love it was that made me able…”
The message this sends to me is two part:
1) The people who support us are precious, precious gifts. In gratitude, may we turn to them and lean on their love in order to do what good we can while on this earth.
2) We are beholden to each other. May we be a gift from heaven to each other, by lightening one another’s loads, by warming and cherishing those we care for (and those we maybe don’t), and by putting others “not away” from us. Even when we are dismayed like Joseph, may we choose to show love.