Christmas is almost here. Shoppers have been rushing around for weeks, searching for just the right gifts. Everyone is preoccupied with preparations, but amid all the tinsel and glitter, something is missing.
Did we forget someone at Christmastime? To answer this question, look once more at Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus. Luke 2:4 tells us that “Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem.”
Joseph remains one of the most neglected characters in the Christmas story. We tend to focus our attention on Mary and the babe in the manger. In many nativity scenes and Christmas pageants Joseph plays a cameo role, standing silently behind the mother and newborn Christ child. He is often forgotten at Christmas.
Yet what an important role Joseph played in Jesus’ early life. He supported Mary and married her, even though the child was not his. He was a non-anxious presence at the manger and later led Mary and the young child to sanctuary in Egypt. Joseph was Jesus’ mentor during those silent years in Nazareth, training him in the carpentry trade and teaching him love of the Law.
Joseph reminds us to remember the forgotten people at Christmas. Think of the people who are alone at Christmas, eating lonely meals that stick in their throats. Consider those who mourn the loss of loved ones whose presence they miss acutely at this season. Don’t overlook other forgotten people: those who suffer from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, often misunderstood and ignored by our society, many of them residing in memory care facilities.
Also forgotten at Christmas are caregivers so overburdened in round-the-clock care for loved ones that there is no time for themselves. In a world where presents at Christmas hold such a dominant place, the best gift we can give forgotten people is our presence.
Richard L. Morgan, a retired Presbyterian (USA) pastor, stays busy writing and serves as a hospice volunteer in pastoral care at the Redstone Highlands retirement community near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he is a resident. Since 1991 he has written 14 books, including At the Edge of Life: Conversations When Death Is Near, Settling In: My First Year in a Retirement Community, Remembering Your Story, and Fire in the Soul: A Prayer Book for the Later Years. He coauthored two books with Jane Marie Thibault: Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life: 7 Gateways to Spiritual Growth and No Act of Love Is Ever Wasted: The Spirituality of Caring for Persons with Dementia.