Endure. Love. Give.

by The Rev. Dr. Jason L. Parkin, Rector

I am Joseph, carpenter, of David's kingly line.
I wanted an heir, discovered my wife's son wasn't mine.
Mine was the likeness I hoped for when the first-born man-child came,
But nothing of him was me, I couldn't even choose his name.
I am Joseph who wanted to teach my own boy how to live.
My lesson for my foster son: Endure. Love. Give.
"Joseph" by U.A. Fanthorpe

U.A. Fanthorpe was an Oxford-educated English teacher who, after 16 years as an academic, decided to do something completely different with her life, and became a receptionist and clerk at a neurological hospital in Bristol, England. In the early 1970s, she began to write an annual brief poem to accompany her Christmas cards to family and friends, a custom she followed the rest of her life, some 40 years. Her poems are, in turn, poignant, funny, insightful, provocative, and occasionally a little unnerving.

As this issue of The Dove arrives, we will be about halfway through the Christmas Season running from December 25 to January 6. It is, for many of us, a peaceful, joyous time of the year: the rush approaching Christmas itself is over; perhaps we have a little free time to enjoy out of town guests or catching up on some local sites and sights; maybe we are pondering, as the New Year commences, what resolutions we will follow-or try to follow-to bring about a transformation in our lives and routines.

And as we move through Christmastide and enter a new secular year, what have we gleaned from the celebration of the Nativity, from the renewed birth of the Holy One of God? Joseph's lessons for his foster son seem appropriate: to endure, love, give. To Endure the challenges before us, whether cultural and communal or individual and private, fully confident that we do not do so alone: indeed, the very message of the Incarnation is that God has stepped into the rhythms of our lives and our world in our very form, that we might know that God is with us, come what may. To Love as we have been loved: to offer our lives freely and unstintingly, not grasping on to what we have or are, but, with open hands, offering ourselves to those around us, especially those in need or sorrow or fear. And to Give: to give our hearts, our time, our unique talents, our compassion, as the ongoing evidence of the wonder of the Incarnation.

At the end of another of her Christmas poems, Fanthorpe wrote,

And this was the moment when a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by angel song and starlight straight into the kingdom of heaven.

We, too, have walked "haphazard by angel song and starlight straight into the kingdom of heaven." Our vocation, as citizens of heaven? Endure. Love. Give.