December 20, 2021
• Rev. Rob Fuquay
Opening scene: Wife sits at table with head in hands. Husband enters pouring drink in her cup then his. He takes seat opposite her at table. As wife hears husband’s presence she lifts her head up while he pours her cup
Joachim: Well aren’t you going to say something?
Anna: (gives a long, stone-faced look, then eventually speaks) Something. (And turns away from him)
Joachim: At any other time I would say that was better than nothing. So what were you doing when I came in?
Anna: Praying. I was praying for her. (pause) Do you prayer for her? You used to. The reason she was even born was an answer to your prayer. You still believe don’t you?
Joachim: I don’t know. Why would God answer a prayer, only to have things turn out like this? I don’t what to believe.
Anna: Well try believing your daughter. (pause) My sister does. You know Elizabeth is about to have a baby.
Anna: That’s right. She is due any day now. Says it’ a miracle. And after Mary’s visit with her, she says the same about her child, that he will be…special.
Joachim: Oh, Anna, there you go again, totally ignoring the fact. Mary has shamed us. You’ve always been too soft on her.
Joachim: You’re too soft on her. You let her get away with things. You didn’t do enough.
Anna: I didn’t do enough? Let’s talk about doing enough. Who carried her in the womb for nine months and delivered her with excruciating pain? Who nursed her for two years? Who got up with her at nights when she was crying and who walked around the house carrying her til she went back to sleep so that you wouldn’t have to be disturbed?
Joachim: I did my part.
Anna: Like what?
Joachim: Like teaching her discipline!
Anna: Yes, yes you did. You taught her so well that she learned to be afraid of you. She learned that you loved her as long as she followed all your rules. Did you ever think that she’s not here because if she disappointed you, this is the last place she would be welcome? Did you ever think of that?
Joachim: She knows she has a home to come to.
Anna: Home is the place where you want to go. Sometimes I wonder if this is my home?
Joachim: Look, This is not my fault! If it weren’t for me, she would be…
Anna: Go, ahead, finish that. She would be where? Pregnant? Unmarried? God knows where, about to have a baby without even her family there with her to support her? You mean if it weren’t for you she might end up somewhere like that?
Joachim: I wanted the best for her too. I wanted her to know right from wrong. I wanted her to be a good girl.
Anna: Joachim! listen to yourself. You wanted her to be good, but there’s no goodness without love. Do you want her to know her daddy loves her?
Wait a minute. This isn’t even about Mary is it? This is about you being more concerned about what our self-righteous neighbors will think. You’re more concerned about how this might make you look.
Joachim, you’re gonna be a grandfather. No matter what was done or shoulda been done, nothing changes that fact now, our baby is going to have a baby. And do you want to be a part of that baby’s life or not?
…well do you?
…Aren’t you going to say something?
Wife leaves frustrated
Lord, I know we haven’t talked in a while, and I don’t know anymore if you’re really there. But if you are I could use some help.
Is she right? Has this been more about me? Did I drive my daughter away? I simply tried to do the right thing. That’s what I’ve always believed, that if you just lived right everything would turn out well, but I should have known all those years ago it doesn’t really work that way. I was faithful. I was devout. I made my offerings at the temple every festival. I gave liberally to the poor. But that day when the elders stopped me and said I wasn’t worthy to go up to the altar because I didn’t have a child, I should have known then, something’s wrong with that system. Do you make those rules? Is that how you work, that because a couple can’t have a child that you curse them? That it means they have somehow offended you? That they have sinned?
I was humiliated. But I turned to you. I went into the wilderness 40 days, fasting and praying. And you heard my prayer. Anna conceived and we had Mary.
I praised you, O how I praised you. But you knew. You are a God who doesn’t look at the outward appearance of a man, for you see what’s in his heart. You knew my praise was not really for Mary, but for me. You took away my reproach, my shame. You made me righteous again, only to take it all back 14 years later.
If the elders shunned me for not having a child, what will they do when my child bears a child out of wedlock? I’m tired of this. I’m tired of worrying if I have been righteous enough and good enough to deserve your blessing, to be accepted by my neighbors. And if this is how you work, then I’m tired of you.
But if it’s not, if this is not how you work, then Lord, I need a sign. I need something. Something…And while you’re at it, please look after my little girl, wherever she is tonight.
Reader enters, scripture is read Luke 2:1-7, 39
They barely made it out of Galilee before they ran out of money. (slight chuckle) Young people have no idea how much a trip like that costs. Its probably best they didn’t. If they had carried the cash they needed they would have been a target for bandits.
By the time they reached Bethlehem they were exhausted. My girl must be tough. How she made it I don’t know. With all the people returning for the census, there was no place to stay. They had to beg for lodging. My daughter reduced to begging. But someone permitted them to stay in their stable. So that’s what they did, and that is where she delivered my grandson.
Joseph had to do it. No midwife to help him. He did it himself. And he took care of my Mary and their baby. I am so proud of him.
None of this should have happened like this. But I know it all happened just as it was meant to. As you are aware, Mary and Joseph have come home with their baby. His name is Jesus. When I say I know, I don’t just mean that I know what happened. I am saying I know why it happened. I know…I believe…this all took place by the hand of God.
And the reason I know is because of the first moment Mary placed that baby in my arms. I can’t explain it. There are some things you know you can’t explain. You just know it. When I held my grandson for the first time, I knew there was something special about him. I realize, some of you think I am sounding like an over-reactive first time grandfather who believes there has never been a human being like his grandson. That’s I’ve abandoned my moral righteousness for sentimental emotion.
Well, even if that’s the case, by God, what’s wrong with that? Hmm? What is wrong with thinking your grandson is the most special who has ever lived? Why would I ever want to make him think anything else? I would be a lesser man if I didn’t treat my grandson this way. He didn’t choose how he came into the world and in what circumstances. If I shunned my grandson because of some religious law then shame on me.
I’m not that man anymore. I am free of believing that I have to make everything right, that I have to be righteous. And I’m free of believing that I have to make the people I love righteous. I’m free of controlling them. That’s not my job. My one job is to love them.
So, you may think I’ve become less religious, my friends and neighbors. You may judge me. But here’s the thing. I’ve never felt closer to God. That’s why I asked you to come together. I wanted you to know I have never felt closer to God my entire life and it happened the moment I held my grandson.
The last time I held a baby that small was when I held Mary. And its different holding your own child. All I could think of was my responsibility. My need to look after her, protect her, raise her. I had to teach her. I was responsible for what she became. But now, now, with a grandson, I was free to receive, just receive the joy and love he brought. He isn’t mine to control. He’s mine to love. And holding him I feel love. God’s love.
He saved me. He saved me from me.
And I decided that day this is why he needs his grandfather. This is what I will show him. Love. This is what I will teach him. Love. God’s love. Not rules. Yes, I will teach him the Great Shema, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.” But I will also teach him you shall your neighbor as yourself.
I will teach him that the Law says when someone has offended you, you have a covenant responsibility to forgive seven times. But I will teach not to stop there. Forgive seventy times seven! Why put a limit on forgiveness? Life’s too short.
I will teach him all that the Law says, that is says not to murder but I will also teach not to live in anger. Yes, it says, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” but I will teach not to retaliate. That if someone slaps you on the cheek, then turn the other one to them.
I’ve lived to long the other way, and I want something more. And I believe this little child will help me find it.
When Mary and Joseph left for Bethlehem, I stuck to my principles. I was proud, even thought I might not ever see them again. And I knew you would be proud of me because I would not bring disgrace upon our village. But night I realized that for all my principles somewhere out there was my little girl. And she had to be sacred and facing the hardest thing in her life and she was without her family. She was without her father.
But God forgave me for being righteous. And God assured me, she was never without her Father. Her Father has been with her all along.