Tag Archives: Joseph

A case of mistaken identity


from “The Mirror”, 25 December 2014



A school boy thought he was all set to play Joseph Stalin in the end of term play – but it turned out he was supposed to be Joseph of Nazareth.

Russian pupil Ilya Gavrichenko told his parents he was playing the Soviet despot, and so as requested, they made his outfit, including army boots, the red stripe on his military trousers, and a marshal’s jacket.

“We even got him a perfect moustache,” said his father Fedor, from St Petersburg. “We were all ready for him to be a success.”

It was only when they arrived at the performance that the horrified parents realised this was a nativity play and their 12-year-old son was supposed to play a very different role – Joseph of Nazareth.

“He was supposed to accompany the Virgin Mary but there was no time to change the outfit,” said his father.

“Each time he went out on stage, the mothers were in hysterics, crying and yowling from somewhere under their chairs.

“My son was lost because of mixing up the part he was playing, and feeling guilty for having done so.”



Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Joseph the Farmer

Extract from “Cider with Rosie” by Laurie Lee


Mile after mile we went, fighting against the wind, falling into snowdrifts, and navigating by the lights of the houses. And yet we never saw our audience. We called at house after house; we sang in courtyards and porches, outside windows, or in the damp gloom of hallways; we heard voices from hidden rooms; we smelt rich clothes and strange hot food; we saw maids bearing in dishes or carrying away coffee cups; we received nuts, cakes, figs, preserved ginger, dates, cough-drops and money; but we never once saw our patrons.

Eventually we approached our last house high up on the hill, the place of Joseph the farmer. For him we had chosen a special carol, which was about the other Joseph, so that we always felt that singing it added a spicy cheek to the night.

We grouped ourselves round the farmhouse porch. The sky cleared and broad streams of stars ran down over the valley and away to Wales. On Slad’s white slopes, seen through the black sticks of its woods, some red lamps burned in the windows.

Everything was quiet: everywhere there was the faint crackling silence of the winter night. We started singing, and we were all moved by the words and the sudden trueness of our voices. Pure, very clear, and breathless we sang:

‘As Joseph was a-walking
He heard an angel sing;
‘This night shall be the birth-time
Of Christ the Heavenly King.
He neither shall be born
In Housen nor in hall
Not in a place of paradise
But in an ox’s stall …..


And two thousand Christmases became real to us then; The houses, the halls, the places of paradise had all been visited; The stars were bright to guide the Kings through the snow; and across the farmyard we could hear the beasts in their stalls. We were given roast apples and hot mince pies, in our nostrils were spices like myrrh, and in our wooden box, as we headed back for the village, there were golden gifts for all

1 Comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Are we there yet?

Who has not gone on a long drive with a child and not heard the whine “Are we there yet?”

Advent is not unlike a long journey and we are all wondering when we will get there; not just the children! We are tired, restless and maybe even a little bit disgruntled as we plod on and never seem to arrive.

And, as seems to happen every year, there is still so much to do and so little time left in which to do it.

We’re not there yet & we’re going to have to wait a little longer. Just as Mary and Joseph had to wait the normal nine months for the time to come for Jesus to be born we too must continue to wait.

While we wait it might be helpful for us if we were able to focus on the preparation, the inner journey and growth and the openness to the work of the Spirit within us.

We have been doing that but we are getting anxious because we are at the point where we can see it from here. We can see the stable of Bethlehem. We can hear the angel choirs in rehearsal and we have heard that the magi are looking round the camel showrooms and are checking out travel insurance. Yet, we must continue to keep our focus. There are still things to ponder.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.

“Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”


“I see millions and millions of stars,” Watson replied.


“What does that tell you?” asked Holmes.


 Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.


Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo.


Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three.


Theologically, I can see that God is all- powerful and that we are small and insignificant.


Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.


But tell me, Homes, what does it tell you?”


“Elementary, my dear Watson,” replied Holmes. “Someone has stolen our tent.”


What have we overlooked this year? As we look at the oh-so familiar Christmas story once again this year we need to ask ourselves the question, “What do we see?”

We have heard the  Christmas stories so often that we can forget how hard it must have been for Mary and for Joseph to walk that walk. We forget that the situation in which they found themselves, by the power of the Holy Spirit, was dangerous in more ways than one.

They lived in a time of social, religious and political turmoil. The hope for a messiah had been fostered in them for generations.

Perhaps it had been a dream of every little Hebrew girl for generations to give birth to the long expected one.

Perhaps Mary had not even dared to imagine such a thing?  But without a husband? Mary ran the danger of public ridicule at the very least – in fact, Joseph would have been within his rights to have her put to death.

But he chose another way, at the direction of the angel, and placed his honour and his reputation in the court of public opinion.

So they were married and became a family. He raised Jesus as his own, always knowing though, that there was something very special about him. Perhaps it is this loving and accepting relationship with Joseph that provided the basis of Jesus’ experience of God as ‘father’

Perhaps Joseph influenced Mary’s son more than we will ever know.

When we seek to interpret this story in today’s context we learn that we can encounter the divine, indeed we can give birth to the divine when we ignore the court of public opinion and do what we believe to be right, fair and just.

When we do what is right despite what it might do to job prospects or reputation we are then able to know what the cost of discipleship is and also its rewards.

Mary and Joseph are models for us of those who step forward in faith, unsure of their road, unsure of what the cost will be, yet sure that God goes with them to guide and protect them.

a footnote …. for many in our society, there is nothing for which to count down.  I’m thinking of the homeless and hungry, the folks estranged from their grown up children, the neglected lone pensioner, those alone who are missing a deceased partner or parent or child… for them, there’s nothing to look forward to.  There’s no need for preparation.  No need to shop, even if they could afford it.

Are we nearly there yet?  For so many folk it can’t come quick enough nor go just as rapidly.

May we – in however small a way – a phone call, a donation to a food bank, the giving of even a few Pounds to a charity – bring something of the hope and joy of the Incarnation into the life of those who desperately need to receive the love of God made real.


Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

from “Beliefs of the Heart” blog – Heroes of the Faith

The wonder of the gospel is not the love of the beautiful; it’s when Beauty kisses the Beast.

The Beast isn’t loved because he has changed; the Beast is changed when he is loved. Joy doesn’t come when he’s loved for his beauty; joy overwhelms him when he is loved in his hideousness.

If the Beast were loved for his beauty, it would be an unbearable burden. Any day he might be scarred, and soon he will certainly be a wrinkled old man.

So why do we burden our children with the unbearable load of “being good little boys and girls like the heroes in the Bible”? We wouldn’t load a pack mule with the burdens we place on our children.

There’s gotta be a better way

Let’s teach the wonder of the gospel. Let’s show our kids that God loves us … simply because he loves us. In our beastliness. That he loves us before we are good.

That his love isn’t vague sentimentality, but it cost him his most precious treasure to turn us into his prized possession; that the storyline of the Bible is God’s Search and Rescue mission to find the dying Beast and kiss him into joyous life.

  • How Abraham was an idol worshiper and God loved him and pursued him;
  • How Joseph was a narcissistic boy and God loved him and pursued him;
  • How David was a murdering adulterer and God loved him and pursued him;
  • How Esther had sex outside of marriage with a non-believer and God loved her and pursued her.

Our heroes weren’t loved because they were good; they were good because they were loved.

We may believe in the innocence of youth, but our children know better. They see the children in the schoolyard (and they see us at home!). They don’t need the counterfeit gospel of pack-mule-moralism; they need the kiss of the Beauty.

Maybe we do too. Besides, it’s what the Bible in fact teaches.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Goodbyes – some thoughts for Ascension Day

It’s often very difficult to say ‘goodbye’ – especially if it’s a member of the family or a close friend who is going away for a while.  Railway stations, airports, bus stations and ferry terminals can be pretty awful places at times.

There are many ‘goodbyes’ in the Bible…..

  • We’re going to start with that grand old man Moses who led the children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt through the wilderness toward the promised land.

Moses at the end of so many years of service to Israel, is not allowed by God to enter the promised land.  He looks back at what they have done together, then he looks forward, and bids them farewell.

He says goodbye to his people – ‘Happy art thou, O Israel’ he cries, ‘A people saved by the Lord.’

He knows that God has protected them in the past, and has no fears for their future – for he knows they are in God’s safe keeping.

  • Then there is Jacob, a very elderly man.  What a long and exciting life he has led; what a man he has been.

Then had come the loss of his son Joseph, whom he had believed had been killed.  But years later, Joseph, now a great man in Egypt, was reunited with his family.

In his old age, Jacob moved with his entire household down to that strange land to settle there.  He lived in Egypt, but his heart was still in his homeland of Palestine.

Even as he lay dying and said his goodbyes, he begged that his body should be taken back and buried in the land he loved..

  • Then there is the parting between Jonathan and David. 

Jonathan was a prince, the son of King Saul, and David was a shepherd boy, and they became very close friends.  But David was perceived as being a rival to Saul, so the King forced them apart.  They met secretly to say goodbye, embraced and wept.


Then Jonathan said these last beautiful words:

    ‘Go in peace…the Lord shall be between thee and me…forever’

They had to part, but in their love of God, they would always be one.

  • There is the parting between St Paul and the elders of Ephesus 

The old Apostle, having done his work in these parts, is on the way back to Jerusalem.

He knows that he is running into danger, and, therefore, says goodbye to his friends.  Even grown men at such times can break down in tears, so Paul asks them to stop as they are making things harder for him.

How these Christians really did care for one another.

  • And lastly we come to the story of Christ saying goodbye to his friends at the time of his Ascension

It should have been a terrible occasion.  Here was Jesus whom his disciples had known so wonderfully, and who had changed their lives forever, now going away from them.

Here was the one who had brought God into their lives in a real and living way, now saying his goodbyes.  What a blow that should have been.

But when they parted, the disciples went back to Jerusalem, ‘filled with great joy’ as we heard.  ‘Filled with great joy’ Why?  Because they had his promise that although it was goodbye and an end of meeting together in the old way with him before their eyes, it was the beginning of his being with them in a new way.

He would be with them, in spirit, always.  And not just with them, but with us too.

  • In our lifetime, there are many goodbyes and some of them can be hard, even painful.

Imprinted in my mind most vividly is my beloved wife asleep on her death-bed – just a matter of hours before she died.  I bent over her, kissed her on her forehead and said “Thank you; I’ll see you again soon enough somewhere, some time. You’ll be safe”

We never have to say goodbye to Jesus, he is with us forever.

Remember what he said ‘ I am with you always, even to the close of the age’ And he is, as king of kings & lord of lords – and in that we can all rejoice.

1 Comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic