The Love of a Father

The Love of a Father

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Rev. Dr. Ruth Shaver is Interim Pastor of The Congregational Church of Mansfield, MA, Interim Consultant for North Community Church, Marshfield, MA, and Moderator of the Old Colony Association. She is a member of Second Congregational Church, Attleboro, and resides in Pawtucket, RI, where she enjoys cooking, reading, and watching far too much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Trek and Star Wars franchises than she should. 

Scripture: Matthew 1:18b-21 (NRSV)

When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’

Reflection: The Love of a Father

 

I was six weeks old when my father deployed to Vietnam.

As the story goes, I could identify him in pictures and by voice on reel-to-reel tapes by the time I was seven months old. When my mother and I went to Hawaii to meet him for his R&R trip, I was going on 11 months old and was fine with him in person as long as Mom was around…but I wasn’t about to let her go off with a stranger. Their romantic dinner plans became my first opportunities to try steak, tuna, and fresh pineapple.

He came home when I was 15 months old. I was terrified of him.

He looked like the man I knew as “Daddy” from the photos and he sounded like him. What’s a photo and a recorded voice got to do with a real person in the mind of a toddler?

My father could easily have pushed his way into my world. But being a father completely besotted with his daughter (his words, not mine), he knew he had to wait for me. For what he described as 24 agonizing hours he waited before I finally toddled over to him, put my hand on his knee, and asked, “Daddy?” When he said yes, I squealed in delight, clambered up on his lap, and became my Daddy’s Girl for life.

At my father’s memorial service earlier this year, my brother correctly assessed that I would by my Daddy’s Girl for my lifetime.

Every Christmas, I think of how similar Dad and Joseph are. Dad refused to impose his own wishes on me when my separation anxiety would have ruined my mother’s night out. Dad waited for me to come to him when it must have been the hardest thing in the world to be patient for his child.

Joseph risked his own reputation for the woman he loved when he believed the angel’s dreaming words and resolved to marry her. We know he provided shelter and later a home for Mary, Jesus, and the children who came after; we know, too, that he worried about Jesus tremendously when the boy stayed behind in Jerusalem without telling anyone.

We have to guess that Joseph worked hard to assure that his wife and children had what they needed to live as comfortably as life in Nazareth allowed. He probably taught Jesus and his other sons how to work with their hands as he did and it’s not hard to see that Joseph provided his sons with a foundation in their Jewish faith and Scriptures. We know that he’s not present at Jesus’ crucifixion; I have always presumed that this loving husband and father had died before Jesus entered his time of ministry because I think we would see him in the story otherwise.

From before his birth until the time he took his last breath, Jesus had the love of a father to guide and support him. I have the blessing of the same. I love telling Joseph’s story and I try to lift his faithfulness up every Advent. Even so, I’m glad that this year, there’s a pageant on Joseph’s Sunday. I’m not sure I could tell the story of Jesus’ father without a lump in my throat in this first Christmas season since my dad died in March.

PRAYER

God of faithful, loving fathers, we give thanks for the fathers and father figures in our lives. Whether these men were present in our lives from before our births or came into our lives later, we are shaped by their actions. And whether they are still with us or have passed from this world, we are grateful for their love. In the name of Joseph’s son, Jesus, we pray. Amen.

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at cochranem@sneucc.org.

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war.
  • For those grieving or suffering due to the ~41,300 gun violence deaths in the US this year.
  •  For those who ache for the love of a father.
  • For the friends and families of The Rev. Lois A. Bryant, who pastored at the former Knightsville Franklin Congregational Church in Cranston, Rhode Island, for ~25 years, and and was a member of the Smithfield Avenue Congregational Church, Pawtucket, where she was the director of Christian Education for many years as well.
  • For the friends and families of  The Rev. Sylvia F. Robinson, a retired pastor of the South Congregational Church in Lawrence, MA, who before being ordained, served alongside her pastor husband for two decades in Massachusetts, Connecticut and California. Sylvia's Life Celebration will be held on January 21, 2023 in the Christ Church United, 10 Arlington Street, Dracut at 10:00 AM. 

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

  • For good fathers and father-like figures in our lives.

 This Week in History:

December 16, 1773 (249 years ago): In Boston Harbor, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three British tea ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The midnight raid, popularly known as the “Boston Tea Party,” was in protest of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773, and was one of the pivotal events leading to the American Revolution.  [History

“Study the past if you would define the future.”
Confucius

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Ruth E. Shaver

The Rev. Dr. Ruth Shaver is a General Synod delegate Old Colony Association Moderator, Interim Pastor at The Congregational Church of Mansfield, MA, and a member of Second Congregational Church UCC in Attleboro, MA  

December 12, 2022
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