Joseph the Bridge-Builder

In the Christian Church, this past Sunday was both the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve.  The Gospel reading for the morning was “The Birth of Jesus Foretold” in which the Angel Gabriel comes to Mary and informs her that the power of the God will overshadow her and she will bear God’s son (Luke 1:26-38).

While this passage and the visit to Elizabeth that follows are foundational pieces of our Christian narrative, I actually can’t help but focus on Joseph.  Especially in these divisive times – both politically and religiously divisive times – I can’t help but think of Joseph as one of our earliest Christian “bridge-builders.”

Even though Joseph was visited by an angel who reassured him that Mary wasn’t unfaithful and had been, instead, chosen by God to give birth to the Savoir, I think Joseph could easily have publicly hung Mary out to dry or opted to run like the wind and never look back.  In that time and culture, Joseph would have had every right to publicly shame Mary and to make it nearly impossible for her to find someone else to marry that would support her and her child.

Instead, Joseph listened to the angel and took Mary’s hand in marriage – despite what must have been a great deal of anger and uncertainty.  His willingness to stay with Mary provided the safety and security that nurtured Jesus into someone who would soon be reciting the words of Isaiah in, what would be the equivalent of, his “inaugural address” in the temple (Luke 4:16-19):

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Spirit has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
The Spirit has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

It is also not lost on me that Joseph not only built an emotional bridge between his ego and uncertainty, and his faith, but he was a carpenter who most likely had the capacity to build physical bridges, as well.

My hope for all of us this Christmas season is that we will get in touch with our “inner Joseph” and challenge ourselves to continue building bridges across the divide between our faith and ego; between our perspectives and other’s perspectives.  It seems to me that nothing is more powerful these days than taking the air out of the tires of our judgement, and using it to pump up faith, hope and love instead.

Christmas blessings,


The “Building Bridges, Building Hope” blog is written by Susie Tierney, Executive Director, of the Center for Social Ministry.  Susie hopes the blog will encourage others to be “bridge-builders” in this politically divisive time, and will promote dialogue and common ground-thinking. To sign up to receive our “Building Bridges, Building Hope” blog click here.