A Welcome Addition

by Rev. Dr. Greg Wismar

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Many people keep names and address lists either electronically or in more conventional ways, such as on file cards or in some kind of notebook. These lists constantly change as new people are added to the circle of one’s relationships or old friends are rediscovered as time passes. The Calendar of Feasts and Festivals used in the church is the same kind of changing and expanding list.

In the Lectionary section of the Church Calendar for Lutheran Service Book, there are three additions to the list of Feasts and Festivals that supplement what was previously listed in Lutheran Worship as annual observances. The first of those three new days occurring on the yearly calendar is the Day of St. Joseph, which is observed on March 19.

Observing a day named in honor of the foster father of Jesus dates back to the 15th century. Especially popular in western and southern Europe, the festival day coincides with the end of winter and the beginning of spring. For Christian people, the placement of the Day of St. Joseph in the middle of the month of March, which was named for Mars, the Roman war deity, serves asa reminder of our daily call to steadfastness of faith and to the virtue of a gentle and nurturing spirit.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph is described as being a “just man” who followed the directives of the divine messenger sent to him in a dream (Matt. 1:19). By long-standing Christian tradition, Joseph is associated with families and homes, with craftsmen and travelers, and with extending love and care in the family circle and beyond.

To complement the addition of Joseph to the liturgical calendar of the congregations of the Synod, a new stanza was added to the hymn “By All Your Saints in Warfare,” which focuses on Joseph, the just man who serves as a model for all parents: “We sing our thanks for Joseph, / The guardian for the Lord, / Who faithfully taught Jesus / Through craft and deed and word. / Grant wisdom, Lord, and patience / To parents ev’rywhere / Who guide and teach the children / Entrusted to their care” (LSB 517:14).

The fact that Joseph is no longer mentioned as being present in Gospel accounts after the time that Jesus is a 12-year-old boy has led to his depiction in much Christian art and literature as being a man of advanced years at the time Jesus was born. In his role as foster father, Joseph helped to shape the earthly experience of our Lord. His inclusion now on the calendar of our churches is a welcome addition indeed!

> Did you know? March 19 commemorates  St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus.

About the author: Rev. Dr. Greg Wismar (wismar@prodigy.net) is pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church, Newtown, Conn.

March 2011

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