Spiritually Speaking – December 2021

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“Joseph was a man who always did what was right…” Matthew 1:19a

Joseph: A Portrait of Quiet Integrity

Years ago there was a young college student at Amherst who had a pair of shoes that needed repair. So, he took them to a little shoe shop in Northampton which was not far from the campus. The cobbler there was a simple man by the name of Jim Lucey.

Mr. Lucey could tell that this young college student was quite shy and insecure, so he befriended him that day. At least a couple of times each week, the young student would come into Lucey’s Shoe Shop just to hang out and talk to this special and very simple guy. In a way, Mr. Lucey became not only a good friend to the young student, but almost a significant father figure as well. Mr. Lucey would listen, and the young student would talk; then the student would listen and Mr. Lucey would talk. It became a very rich friendship for both of them.

Years later, Mr. Lucey was working away in his cobbler shop like he had done for more than half a century. He was an old man now who had difficulty getting around. Yet he was always there at eight o’clock in the morning, and he worked until six o’clock at night. He continued to do the same high-quality work he had always done when he was a young man.

One morning the postman came in and said, “Jim, I’ve got a very important piece of mail for you this morning. It’s from the White House, and it’s addressed to you personally.”

Jim couldn’t imagine what it could be, so he hurriedly opened it up. Inside was a simple handwritten letter from that young college student many years ago.

“My dear Mr. Lucey,” the letter began. “I can’t tell you what a great difference you have made in my life. You were the most important influence on me that I have ever had. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I just wanted to write you and say ‘thank you’.

Yours truly,
Calvin Coolidge—President of the United States.”

I would like to talk to you this morning about people like Jim Lucey. They are simple people who often live in the shadows of life and don’t really get a lot of attention—but sometimes their influence is downright awesome. It can actually change the whole landscape of the world.

One person like that was a young man by the name of Joseph who lived in the land of Palestine…back 2,000 years ago. He was a simple guy like Mr. Lucey who also worked with his hands. Tradition has it that he was a carpenter who made fine pieces of furniture out of wood—just like Mr. Lucey restored old worn pairs of shoes. It’s very interesting that this was the guy whom God chose to be the earthly father of his own Son.

Like Mr. Lucey, Joseph didn’t draw a lot of attention to himself. He wasn’t a famous person. He didn’t make the headlines, and he didn’t exert a lot of influence on the great decisions of his day.

However, he was a highly moral and ethical person…one who lived by his principles. I wonder who Jesus would have been, had he not had an earthly father like Joseph.

Maybe God wasn’t fooled way back then, as we are today…by a person’s outward appearance…or by a person’s title, position, or bank account.

But in any event, when it came time to find an earthly father for his own Son, God went to Nazareth up in Galilee and tapped on the shoulder of a young carpenter there whose name was Joseph. The Bible says that he was a man “who always did what was right.”

That little phrase says so much to me. He did what was right—(1) whether others were looking—or not looking; (2) whether it was broad daylight—or darkness; or (3) whether it would reward him or cost him dearly.

And you know, it makes me wonder in this Advent Season whether you and I don’t need to get back in touch with this simple man named Joseph.

Do you always do what’s right, no matter the consequences or the cost?
…no matter whether other people are looking or not?
…no matter whether it’s to your advantage to do so?

Apparently God notices people who always do what’s right. And—apparently God finds a way to honor people who always do what’s right as well.

The Rev. Dr. Norman Neaves Church of the Servant
Oklahoma City, OK—December 7, 2003


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