Today is the winter solstice. The longest night of the year. We’re having a “longest night” service at the hospital. Also known as “Blue Christmas”, it’s a quieter service than you will find at most Christmas celebrations this weekend. We’ll be acknowledging that some people want to participate in Christmas, but are aching deeply because of loss this year.
My meditation for the service is coming from an unusual text for Christmas. Joshua 24:32 tells us that Joseph’s bones were buried in the Promised Land, on land that Jacob bought.
For those of us who lose track of time, between 400-500 years before this paragraph, Jacob bought some land. After many years, he went to Egypt. And there his descendants stayed for 400 years, until Moses led them out. When they left Egypt, they carried Joseph’s embalmed body with them, because he wanted to be buried back in the land of promise.
Jacob bought the property, with no knowledge that he would ever settle in this land his grandfather had been promised. And he didn’t.
Joseph expressed his final wishes that he be buried in the land that his great-grandfather had been promised. While he was living in Egypt.
Moses made sure that Joseph’s body was carried, to carry out the promise.
Joshua made sure that Joseph’s body was buried, to carry out the promise.
God’s promises often take a very long time, often more than one lifetime, to be kept.
We need to preserve the promises, at least in their telling. And, we need to do our part to fulfill our part of the promise.
That’s the story of Advent, remembering what came before so we can pass it to the future, knowing that in the present the story is still incomplete. And it’s knowing that we will often carry the dreams and promises of our loved ones through many generations, until the promises of God are completed.