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Louie Crew
377 S. Harrison Street, 12D
East Orange, NJ 07018

Phone: 973-395-1068 h

Please sign the guestbook and view it.

Louie & Ernest Clay-Crew
Married February 2, 1974


Don't repeat the mistake on page 847 of The Prayer Book .  Here is what God really requires from the chosen people:

Do justice

A series of essays in the Episcopal Church

Born by the dual gift of compassion and righteousness

          Compassion Struggling with Law


        A sermon for Advent 4, December 19, 2010


                 By the Rev. Carr Holland


              Preached at Grace Church in Newark, NJ





Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation,

that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming,

may find in us a mansion prepared for himself;

Here we are and now it is the 4th Sunday of Advent.

The image before us is that of preparing for Jesus’ coming.

        Purifying our conscience,

                Daily visitation by God,

                        Mansion for Christ to dwell.


I am reminded of two mansions of my youth.

     One, the home of my Godparents, the other their Christmas crèche.

I am reminded as I hear these words of

     the crèche set up in my Godparents front hall every year.

                It went up early in Advent and

their 4 children watched and waited. 

There was a ritual of the characters arriving. 

It was very gradual over the weeks of Advent.

 First the stable appeared

then some straw or pine straw or angel’s hair.

     As the days of advent passed the animals would appear one by one.

 Then shepherds at a distance,

my favorite was a small shepherd boy,

then Mary and Joseph

and then only after midnight Mass the infant

 would find his place in the stable. 

Somehow an Angel showed up. 

      The shepherds would be moved in close to offer worship. 

The 3 kings would be in another room

as if they had been forgotten, gradually they would move.

They would only move to the crèche on Jan. 6, on the Epiphany.

It was a wonderful way to teach us about waiting, watching.

A way to keep the story at the heart of the season,

a way to let it be savored over time.


So it is a little surprising to hear Matthew’s version today.

   You may expect the other characters are yet to show up in his story,  

but they are not, except the Magi yet to come. 

And in their shadow will come the destructive designs of Herod.             

Evil lurking just beyond good, the murder of the innocents to come.


No, Matthew is abrupt and to the point in his story.

“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.

     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.”


There is no Mary talking to the angels.

There is no homeless couple traveling. 

There is no stable to come, rude and bear,

 no cattle lowing with the smell of their dug in the air,

 no shepherds to journey, no boy on his kneel.

The principal actor is not the one of Christmas Cards,

mother mild, a gentle child.


There is rather Joseph,     a righteous man and his dilemma.


This is where Matthew sets the focus of his telling the story.

 He does not care if we think about the mid-day dream

of a young maid and an angelic message.

Matthew cared about the law,          the rules,

the way things are supposed to be done. 

Matthew was a Jew and he knew what was important to a Jew,

who desired a deepening relationship with God.

Joseph was a Jew as well. 

     He too knew what was important to his people so set

    on knowing and following the requirements of God. 


And what was important was the law and the Law was clear.

      While they are betrothed, he has not known her sexually.

And yet, She is with child, pregnant.

                  She is guilty to the public eye of fornication, a capital crime.

Joseph could have brought charges against her,  and

she could have been stoned to death (“public disgrace”)

                        for adultery           (then including pre-marital sex).

You see by taking Mary as his wife Joseph would be joining Mary

in her public guilt and failure to obey the Law.

This was the law of their faith and their social custom.

And a righteous man would follow it. 

This was the life of faith, no exceptions or

the law is diminished in value, the way less clear.

The journey with God conveniently averted.



So Joseph knows what he must do.

unwilling to expose her to public disgrace,

he planned to dismiss her quietly.”


Sounds harsh to the modern ear,

 even if you notice the sweet edge of

not wishing publicly to disgrace her.

He is allowed simply to write her a certificate of divorce

and just be done with it all.

 Maybe this is justice tempered with mercy, gentler.

   It does allow him to demonstrate that his love of God

                 is stronger than his love of Mary       and that is required.


She is then on her own,                    good as dead really,
an unmarried woman with a child,

                no family wanting her,

no work she can much do in that society, alone.


Maybe it was kinder than stoning                     …slower certainly,

   a kind of slow social death

…but you have to live through it and with it.



But Matthew is not concerned with all these nuances.

That is left to us as his readers.


But he is interested in dreams,

    that inner/outer place where we clear our psyche

and where we integrate the deepest hopes,     longings

and values of our lives. 

It is in this place that the message of God

   reaches deep into Joseph’s life.

"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."


Here Joseph’s righteousness, his compassion,

 and his love of that which is greater then himself,

--the God of his ancestors,

       meet in the state of a dream and his life is changed.

                                                                        his decisions altered

He is to replace fear and disappointment with Hope.

        His compassionate core will be the place,

                which will provide legitimacy to God’s coming among us.

He will provide the Lineage,

that of David, that of centuries of hoping, longing.

        All he need do is to name the child, yielding it his child,

                and this is accomplished.                         So says the Law.

        “And He named Him Jesus.”


But there is more here to see.

Further he provides the model    …of Compassion struggling with Law,

that deep human dynamic of conscience.

And compassion wins and hope is born, and it is named Jesus.


This dream does not care

about the nuances of the Doctrine of the Incarnation. 

The nature of Jesus coming.


No Matthew is concerned about function.

The function of Joseph is to provide a connection

to the most ancient hope of Israel.

From the line of the great king David a savior will come.

 And why?            To “save his people from their sins."

And why?         Because it was promised by God …one day…


Mathew cares about function…a savior.


And looking backward from the sight of the Resurrection

 and all its meaning he sees the vision of Isaiah fulfilled,

   “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son,

and shall name him Emmanuel.”  God with Us.


We see a first glimpse within this story that the old faithfulness

based on the law is replaced by a new faithfulness based on this child.

                        Whose name means “God is salvation”

Whose nature is to love   and teach         and heal   and hope for us all. 

To forgive us those things which diminish hope.



So this year when you put out your Crèche

or see this one here become filled,       look on Joseph.

     Remember his struggle to be a person of faith

Remember the goodness of the gift of the Law.

                But remember more the way of compassion,

 how it made safe Christ’s birth. 


Remember the integrity of dreams and struggle and hope treasured.

  Remember that this is the deeper way of faith.

        Then look about you, allow yourself to dream

about how useful you are in the Hope of God. 

What might God be asking you to see, to do?

Then in Compassion, Act.


Such Hope, such actions are fit

for the mansion of our hearts,

a universe of compassion planted by God,

the crèche of his birth, concrete acts of great good in this world,

the hope of the ages, God among us.



Let us pray:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation,

that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming,

may find in us a mansion prepared for himself;


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