“The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said: ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.’” Matthew 1:18-24.
Matthew’s gospel begins with a long list, a genealogy of persons who made possible the coming of Jesus and his central role in salvation history.
In particular, the gospel writer places the names and stories of Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Joseph and Mary as having helped make possible the coming of Christ.
We hear the angel’s greeting to Joseph, “Do not be afraid” that he might accept the birth of a child, born to all people and for all ages.
What a burdensome and emotional task – that reminds us year to year that we too are members of a spiritual family that welcomes Christ into our homes and hearts.
We don’t read much about Joseph, the husband of Mary; his role is written mostly from the vantage point of his kinship in Jewish history. But there is something about his willingness to take Mary into his home, and his regard for the child at the early stages of life — as the “carpenter’s son,” who would become prophet, teacher and healer of souls.
For this holiday season, let’s reflect on this theme of fathers with their sons, and daughters, and how as adults we become the “audience for our kids” and their lives.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I came down with a dreadful cold, and found myself where I had to be, namely in bed.
That holiday, I was invited to friends in Half Moon Bay, but the idea of driving through Aptos and Santa Cruz with all the traffic would take time and delay my recovery. So I stayed home in Monterey, and in three days I read the entire Bruce Springsteen autobiography of 510 pages. The title of which is, what else?… “Born to Run.”
I’m from New Jersey and lived most of my youth on the Jersey Shore. So the boardwalk in Asbury Park, the local rock and roll clubs were familiar to me, and very nostalgic. For example, I didn’t know that “Born to Run,” the song was composed by Springsteen in Long Branch, my own shore town. Wow!
Springsteen grew up in Freehold, the county seat of Monmouth county. His home was next door to the Catholic Church where as a youth, he attended Saint Rose’s Grammar school.
While the narrative is about his music, his climb to celebrity, it’s also about the conflicts with his father. His dad had never really connected with a stead job, nor connected emotionally with his children, for that matter.
When Bruce was in his late teens, his father and mother left New Jersey for San Mateo, California and leaving Bruce and his sister, in New Jersey.
Now you would think the opposite, that a “rock star in the making” would have jettisoned himself from New Jersey, and go west. So this says plenty about their family relationship.
After years of psychotherapy and medication for depression, Springsteen reveals that he could not do much for his father, although they were reconciled in the end, but he could be a better dad to his own children.
Bruce tells of an evening of how he drove the fabled New Jersey “Highway 9” with his son Evan to a local club, “The Starland” to hear Evan’s favorite group, “The Riverboat Gamblers.”
In meeting with band afterwards, Evan noticed one of the band members had an image of Springsteen tattooed on his forearm.
Whenever people on the street stopped Bruce Springsteen and asked for an autograph, he would tell his three kids, that he was the “Barney for adults.” And the rock star would oblige his fans with his signature.
Here, Springsteen writes most movingly:
“When my kids first came to our shows, they were small. And after some early shock and awe, they usually fell promptly asleep or drifted back to their video games, happy to leave Mom and Pop to do their work and come home. At the end of the day, as parents you are their audience.”
All of this is a way of saying, during this Christmas season, we must carefully listen to our kids, their stories, their hopes, and even their dreams. Know their friends, their music, and deeply forward their lives in bonds of love, tenderness and mercy.
After all, it was Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, the Baptist and that collection of shepherds and kings that came to realize fully they too were the audience, for Jesus who would act with such divine grace to become the prophet, teacher, and healer of souls.
Merry Christmas, and have wonderful holiday ahead!