Your Edgefield Advertiser correspondent is in San Francisco this week before Christmas, celebrating my wife Carol’s birthday. San Francisco is an urban mixing bowl where women and men of all races, creeds, and genders have managed to live together for 200 years in an enviable level of harmony and prosperity that teaches us lessons every visit.
One of the San Francisco events we attend whenever we can is Sunday Choral Mass at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, itself an almost perfect reflection of the city’s diversity. This past Sunday was the final Sunday in Advent, and the service focused on the Christmas narrative from the Gospel according to St. Matthew. The homily was given by a new member of the Grace staff, the Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King, described in the bulletin as the Canon for Social Justice.
Dr. King went through the first chapter of Matthew, but in a way that reflected not only on the society of that day but also on that of the present. Mary was a very young woman, a peasant girl who was in between the protection of the family where she grew up and that of her husband-to-be, and found herself unmarried and pregnant. This was not yet the esteemed St. Mary surrounded by angels that we see in stained glass windows everywhere; this was a country girl from a small town, who was devout in her beliefs but otherwise very alone for the first time in her young life. Her fiancé Joseph, older and considerably more experienced than she was, considered walking away from the relationship until, in a dream, he was told the circumstances of her upcoming virgin birth. Most men especially of that day would not have believed the account given by his bride-to-be nor his own dream, but Joseph – in many ways the protagonist of that Matthew chapter One, which begins with his own genealogy – was the notable exception. In Dr. King’s eye, Joseph is “the first and finest feminist role model in the Bible” for that act, and then for his protection of Mary once they married from scandal as much as from the persecution of King Herod. Joseph believed in his dream but even more he believed in his young bride, and built their relationship around their mutual trust and support.
In the 21st Century we still have a society that withholds support from unmarried women in trouble, especially women away from home for the first time, and tends to look the other way and walk away from them. What Dr. King emphasized is the example of young Mary and her trusting and supporting Joseph, who put his family ahead of all things. His was a believing and an inclusive love, a totally unselfish love. The message of Christmas may be seen by some as choirs of Angels singing praises, of wealthy Kings and poor shepherds both coming to worship God. But even more, the original Christmas message is one of family, and of men and women quietly believing and trusting in God and in one another, even in the most difficult of times.
May all the readers of The Edgefield Advertiser of every faith or of no faith at all, have a wonderful and family-filled Christmas and Chanukah, and a truly joyous Holiday Season!
This article represents the views and opinions of the author and not necessarily of The Advertiser.