Joseph’s Story

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Courageous Joseph obeys God, and remains with Mary and baby Jesus.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home. Matthew 1: 18-24

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Front of my mehndi Christmas card.

Surely, Joseph had great faith in God – he obeyed Him in spite of the personal cost. People would talk and whisper about his decision to stay with Mary; he may have lost respect among the men in his community.  He must have puzzled many. Would he regain status as a man to emulate? Would he ever get out from under the shadow of Mary’s first pregnancy. He obeyed God, and yet, all may not have gone well for him within his community. (Have you ever made a decision to obey God, and others did not understand you, nor your decision?) There is often mystery involved with obeying God – obeying in spite of great obstacles, persecution, other people’s plans for your life. This mystery, although puzzling, is often how God works, and the very point where one’s faith begins to form deeper roots. God was sowing deeper roots of faith in Joseph.

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I have seen much artwork with Mary and baby Jesus, however, I think it would be interesting to make some art about Joseph, in response to the above passage of the Bible. I imagine a work where Joseph is holding Jesus, looking at Him with love and tenderness – just as a new father holds his newborn child. Joseph must be knowing (it’s unfolding) more deeply that he is part of something much greater than his own personal story – a larger story. God’s story. What wonder and mystery is at work here.

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Back of my mehndi Christmas Card.

In this rendering of the nativity scene, I have tried to bring out Joseph’s tenderness through his eyes – just a few lines to try to capture his love and wonder. I think, his thoughts of what others think fade as Joseph is drawn into God’s story – a humble Savior has come – and he gets to be a part of it! What a story he has because God has written Himself into Joseph’s story!

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel. Isaiah 7:14

Advent – The Annunciation

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In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

Last Advent, I completed a series of pen and ink drawings, on paper, with watercolor washes. The drawing style is Mehndi, a style I learned when I spent some time in Varanasi, India. For the first drawing, I chose to focus on the annunciation, the encounter Mary had with the angel Gabriel. Mary was told she would bear a child supernaturally, by the Holy Spirit, the glory of the Lord. I drew her looking somewhat perplexed. No matter how deep her relationship was with Yahweh, Creator God, Mary had to have been somewhat overwhelmed.

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But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

As we approach the holy season of the celebration of the birth of Messiah, Emmanuel, God with us, my pace in life has slowed significantly, due to my cancer fight. Because I have lots of hours of quiet, rest, naps, fatigue, I am taking longer moments of seeing, really seeing, Advent. Making art is first slow, intensional seeing, and then drawing or painting in response to this intense seeing.

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“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

As I “look” more carefully at this passage in the Bible about Advent, I see things I haven’t noticed before.

1. God was directing – He sent the angel.

2. The event had specific timing -the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. It may have seemed like an interruption to Mary, but it was purposeful and planned within time.

3. The event was for a specific person, within a specific family. Mary was a real person.

4. Mary had God’s favor and companionship.

5. Mary must have felt safe enough to not run away from the angel. She was troubled, but not consumed with fear.

6. The angel comforts her troubled heart.

7. The angel is boldly honest with Mary.

For me, one who dreads, fears, upcoming chemo sessions because of the pain that follows thereafter, I look for God’s character in this part of the Bible. I see He is safe, He has a plan, He has timing connected with His plans, He has plans for specific people. I can take to heart that he is a God who gives favor and companionship; He speaks words of comfort, employing angels. (And most likely others?) He is honest. There is no beating around the bush on the plan.

Mary wants details on the impossible becoming possible – a virgin having a baby. It’s outside the natural order; many have swept the virgin birth under the rug, or tossed it overboard in order to line up the story with their limited thinking. (We often don’t think as deeply and soundly as God does.) Well, proving we truly aren’t God.  Amazingly, miraculously, Mary trusts the angel knows what he’s talking about. Mary sets aside her life plans, her agenda. Incredible! Just maybe God had planned, and had prepared Mary for this assignment, in her young, trusting heart. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

“I am the Lord’s servant. I am the Lord’s servant,” I whisper to myself.  That just might be an important place to start Advent. And, trusting God’s plan, cancer and all. Can I trust He has prepared me for this?

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Marcia Carole learning mehndi in India

If you are interesting in purchasing these cards, I have a very limited number in my art “store” here:Mehndi Art Cards