Just as we set aside time to prepare for Christmas Day, it makes sense to set aside time to prepare for Easter....hello, Lent. Think of all the Christmas preparations for the birth of Jesus; during these days we are preparing for the end of His early life and the birth of His eternal life. These forty days give us time to shop our hearts and minds, ponder our lists with our names at the top, and choose the perfect gift for Him on Easter morning. That gift is each of us...a more extensive us. More of our minds and our hearts and our hands and feet. How do we get there? How do we explore deeply in order to offer ourselves more fully? I honestly don't know. But I believe the Old Testament story of Joseph will help teach us.
Many scholars believe that the life of Joseph closely connects with Jesus' life story. In fact, it is practically impossible to examine Joseph's life and not see the similarities in the life of Jesus. So who is Joseph?
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.We learn a few facts pretty quickly:
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. Genesis 37:2-8
•Joseph is a member of a very large family
•He is born into a mixed family, step-brothers and step-sisters probably
•His father had a favorite - him!
•He and his brothers did not get along very well - there was jealousy and anger
•Joseph had dreams...I believe big dreams
Ironically, through this story we can immediately recognize Jesus' family life too. He was a member of a large family, he had brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3). He was the favorite - the very favorite of his Father. And the people He came to meet and teach, argued with him, accused Him, and certainly didn't accept Him. Yet, Jesus had a dream, a vision, a hope.
This life template gives me encouragement. I see similarities for my own journey. Do you? Think about it! We all began our lives with people who were imperfect, who loved or didn't love on any given day. Families are complicated, messy, emotional and mark our beginning. These people loved us as best they knew how. Some of us received extravagant family love, others received a broken, shallow type family unit. All of us lived in complicated family units where there were 'favorites' and there was jealousy and anger. But, there was laughter and love in abundance, too. There were nicknames and special hugs. There were some slammed doors and forgotten birthdays as well. In my house, there was also dreaded silence. Sometimes it was better than yelling. It was family. And it was beautiful. And dreams were planted and dreams grew. Because those dreams were planted by a bigger Father.
This Joseph/Jesus story tells me that we all start in the same condition. We all start with 'F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E' engraved inside us. And we all face difficult times. But it's the gift and dream inside that we need to find. It's that special word planted deeply that whispers and nudges. This Lent of our lives is the chance to focus on the inside. And let the dream come alive and breathe and claim us.