The house that Joseph built

The Rev. Canon Dr. Mark Pryce

30 December 2014

This poem celebrates the perseverance and patience of Joseph - carpenter, husband of Mary and guardian of Jesus. With persistent obedience and care he takes on each tricky task in fulfilling his role in the story of Jesus – accepting that Mary’s pregnancy is part of God’s plan, flouting convention to take her as his wife and caring for the child Jesus as God’s Messiah in ways which demand from him great courage, initiative and flexibility – guiding the family to safety in Egypt, living there as a refugees, and then settling to practice his trade in unfamiliar Galilee. All this shows model character and skill which makes a major contribution to God’s ‘renovation project’ of salvation for a world in need of healing and renewal.


I took on an awkward job once,
To mend a clumsy house - I swear it had a squint
And broken back:
Walls askew, angles in an argument,
Almost every part of it untrue, at odds,
Going to ruin.

Make it beautiful he said,
Make it elegant he said,
Make it fit for a bride he said,
  upon her honeymoon.

To make it work
I had to love that property;
Each quirk and fault
I valued like my own design;
Each defect fixed with splice and peg
And blended wood, as if I’d always meant it.  

Make it warm he said,
Make it comfortable he said,
Make it dry and safe enough he said,
  for a mother and her baby.

It taught me, this dumb house,
That being a craftsman is sometimes to embrace
The un-chosen task
And the failings of others,
To bring a generous expertise
Which mends, and makes a future.

Make it broad he said
Make it tall he said
Make it big enough he said
  for visitors to come and wonder.

Make it calm he said,
Make it still he said,
Make it cool he said
  For a corpse to sleep his way through Sabbath.

©Mark Pryce

Journeying with Matthew: Lectionary Year A SPCK Publishing
James Woodward, Paul Gooder, Mark Pryce