22.12.2019 – Fourth Sunday of Advent A
Introduction to the Celebration
We are beginning the celebration of God coming to us, God being with us, we being brought into the presence of God. This is the great mystery of Christmas: it is the feast of Emmanuel which means ‘God is with us.’ This is our special celebration this Sunday, but each time we gather here we remember the words of Jesus: ‘When two or three are gathered here in my name, I am there among them’. So, let us spend time reminding ourselves that Jesus is among us, we are in his presence in this gathering, and recalling that we are the people who proclaim him as Emmanuel: God is with us.
Gospel Text: Matthew 1:18-24
This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
Her husband Joseph, being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally.
He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.
She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.”
Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel,” a name which means “God-is-with-us”.
When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.
Reflexion: Joseph is someone about whom we know little. There are few references to him in the gospels apart from the stories about the birth, infancy and childhood of Jesus (see Mt 13:55 and the parallels in Mark and Luke). He is very much a secondary or background figure in the gospel story. Yet, he is a real Advent person because, in a truly humble and remarkable manner, he prepares for the arrival of the Messiah into his life and into the world.
Matthew presents Joseph as having had no part in Mary’s pregnancy. When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, he wondered how this could be since they had not been living together as husband and wife. Initially he was confused and he did not know what to do. However, he did not act rashly. He listened to God’s word through the angel’s message in a dream and, although it demanded much faith, he did what God asked him. He allowed his life to be influenced and directed by God’s will. Therefore, without complaining, Joseph decided to prepare for the birth of Jesus by caring about Mary during her pregnancy.
Thus, two aspects of Joseph’s character are revealed to us. Firstly, Joseph was obviously a man of deep faith. He trusted God and, discerning God’s will, took the great leap of faith into the unknown in a difficult and confusing situation. God moved him in strange ways and he was responsive to this. Secondly, Joseph was selfless. He did not alienate Mary but, instead, accepted her and remained loyal. His selflessness enabled him to act without fear of ridicule and scorn. Doing God’s will was all-important for Joseph.
We can learn from these two aspects of Joseph’s character. For example, how do we respond to God who often communicates with us in strange ways? Are we able to make the leap of faith when we are unsure about the future? Can we acknowledge and embrace those people and life situations which least suit us? Advent is about cultivating our ability to focus beyond our own concerns and respond to the needs of other people so that Christ can come into our lives through them.
Joseph, in the portrait painted of him in Matthew’s Gospel, prepared for the birth of Jesus with gentleness and faithfulness. He cherished and supported Mary and, together, they brought Christ into the world. Joseph’s discernment of God’s will empowered his confidence. We are challenged to imitate Joseph’s example as we live and work with other people.
Joseph was a man of few words but decisive and significant actions. His behavior made a difference. Unfortunately, some of us speak many words but these words are rendered meaningless by our contradictory behavior. This can easily occur during the days of Christmas when we gather as families and friends. Therefore, let us learn from the example of Joseph. Let us discern and accept joyfully God’s will in our lives. And let us pray to Joseph, asking him to help us to do God’s will always. Amen.
Journeying through the Year of Matthew