Robert J. Morgan tells the story of one holiday season years ago. All he wanted was a little piece and quiet—just an hour or so… a cup of coffee and time to think. It was a busy time… his schedule was upset, and most of his tasks remained undone, his gifts unwrapped—most of them un-purchased—and holiday preparations at church were in full swing.
He writes: “So I chose a little café that served European pastry and a variety of coffees. Its atmosphere was quiet, with soft classical Christmas music in the background. Patrons sat at bistro tables, reading novels or working on crossword puzzles. Here, I thought, I can spread out my calendar, make my “to do” lists, sip my coffee, and schedule the milliseconds between now and December 25. I only had an hour.
But I no sooner entered the café than I heard a familiar voice. An old friend, Dan Cronk, having little to do that morning, had decided to enjoy a pot of tea and a basket of breads. There he stood, tray in hand, looking wistfully, delighted to see me and obviously hoping I’d invite him to sit down. I didn’t want him to join me, for he was a talker, about to rattle away for hours on hypothetical abstractions from his brilliant but rambling mind. There he stood nonetheless. “Well, hello Dan!” I said with a broad smile. “I didn’t expect to see you here.” “Didn’t have much goin’ on this morning, and I thought a pot of tea would cheer me up. Meeting someone?” “Well, no… Actually, I’m not…. Er … Want to join me?” “Sure!”
And down he sat. For the next hour I sat there, head nodding and stomach knotting, listening to him pour forth. My planning calendar rested unopened on the table, and my blood pressure slowly increased in steady increments. I silently cursed the impulse that had chosen that particular café on that particular day at that particular hour. The hour passed, and I cleared my throat. “Well, Dan, it’s been wonderful seeing you again. I have to go now, but I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.” He looked deeply into my eyes, and I noticed for the first time that his were soft, tender, vulnerable. He smiled and reached his hand across the little table and laid it atop mine. “I’m so glad we ran into each other today,” he said quietly. “Thanks for taking time for an old man. I was feeling pretty blue this morning, and I guess I just needed a friend. You know, sitting here with you has felt like… well, it’s been like pulling up to a blazing fire on a cold night. I feel so… so warm now. Thanks for letting me join you.” – Robert J. Morgan (More Real Stories For the Soul, pp. 157-160.)
It is so easy for us to forget how powerful it is to give the present called presence. So many need it this time of year.
When we read the Christmas story from Luke and I think of the life of Joseph, one question always comes to my mind: Why did he stick around?
I know the story recorded of him in Matthew. He learned that his finance was pregnant… he knew he wasn’t the father, but was noble enough to break things off quietly. And then an angel came to him in a dream and sets him straight… revealing to him that Mary’s child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. I understand all that. But then Joseph believes it all and takes Mary home as his wife!
This had to be a hard thing. Mary had chosen her lot: “May it be unto me according to your will.” she told the angel. Joseph, whose life was already intimately tied up with Mary’s, finds out a bit late in the story, if you ask me. And yet he would have to succumb to the same ridicule and embarrassment and then share in responsibility of caring for a child that wasn’t his flesh and blood. And so, I think, Joseph’s greatest gift to Jesus was his presence. He was an earthly father to Jesus and a loving support to Mary.
Later on in the Gospels, Joseph, kind of, fades into the woodwork. We don’t know what becomes of this man of faith… Many NT scholars think he has died before Jesus even begins his earthly ministry. It appears Joseph was thrust onto the stage for his one moment of glory… ironically it was his unselfishness put him there in that spotlight.
Maybe this holiday season, Jesus wants to see you, like his servant, Joseph, give your presence to another. Doesn’t seem like a flashy gift, but it could be the gift that God wants to see from you.