Stump: The Coat of Many Colors by Gail Duggan

Stump is a blogging project of Claremont Presbyterian Church

Have you ever had a coat of many colors? I have. I didn’t wear it very often because it was so bright and called out for others to notice me. A group of Filipino friends gave it to me a number of years ago. The red fabric was not only covered with embroidered, multicolored flowers but the designs included cut-out features. That meant the jacket was not for warmth; it was purely for decoration. I often wore it on Pentecost when red is the designated liturgical color. There was nothing religious about the jacket but friends still called it my coat of many colors or my “holy” coat because of the embroidered edges of the cut-out “holes.”

In the Old Testament story Joseph’s father gives him a coat of spectacular, variegated colors. At least that’s what I thought when I chose to share on this topic for our stumpblog. You can imagine how surprised I was when I re-read the story of Joseph in Genesis 37 to 50 and discovered that the phrase “coat of many colors” is an uncertain translation of some Hebrewwords that can also be translated “robe with long sleeves.”

Think how many pictures have been painted of Joseph in his rainbow-hued cloak. There’s even a musical entitled “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” It upset me to think that the unique gift Joseph received from his father might have been brown or tan, something woven of natural fibers.

Then my mind switched to thinking about whether the color of Joseph’s cloak mattered to the story. I realized that it didn’t make any difference what color Joseph’s coat was. What mattered was that this gift from Jacob, his father, is one of a string of actions that cause Joseph’s brothers to be very jealous of him. That leads to Joseph being sold to some desert traders who take him to Egypt where he ends up in the Pharaoh’s household.

And that’s just the beginning of one of the longest stories in the Bible—13 chapters of intrigue and deception but in the end Joseph and his father and brothers do finally get back together, reconciled and forgiven. Take time to read about the “ins and outs” of Joseph’s life. Notice what the Bible says about the role God plays in protecting Joseph, using Joseph and giving Joseph an opportunity to forgive his brothers and be re-united with them and his father.

This is an amazing story that I got pulled into this Advent because I thought I was writing about Joseph’s rainbow-colored coat. Then I discovered I was writing about a life lived in the protection and service of the living, forgiving God. God is searching for each of us this Advent season. The Spirit wants to speak to you, probably in unexpected ways. Join me in waiting and watching. You’ll be surprised, like I was, and filled with gratitude for a deepening relationship with the Holy One who is always present with you. And it doesn’t matter what color your coat is!

Gail Duggan is a retired Mission Co-Worker and Ruling Elder who worships at Claremont Presbyterian Church and serves on the Session.

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