Fourth Sunday of Advent
Reading: 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 through the prophet:
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,
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.
Here we see where mystery, obedience, integrity and deep faith combine to fulfil God’s promise for the world. An angel had never appeared to a young woman to ask her consent to host a divine pregnancy. A most interesting dialogue must have taken place before Mary accepted. Her response was no ordinary, ‘Yes’ but, ‘Let what you have said be done unto me’ (Luke 1:38) words that would change the course of world events forever. Salvation was nigh. When Mary’s miraculous condition was made known to Joseph he was at a loss as to how to respond. Respectful of Joseph’s integrity and not wishing for this young couple to be humiliated by village gossip, the angel intervened once more. He reassures Joseph that all will be well; this is truly a divine child, the one promised to save the people from their sins. Like Mary, Joseph’s response was one of unquestioning obedience.
As we enter ever more deeply into Advent, we can be encouraged by the deep faith and unwavering trust of Mary and Joseph. God was faithful in his promise to them when they honoured his will. He will be faithful to us ‘and true to his covenant and his graciousness for a thousand generations if we love him and keep his commandments.’ (Deuteronomy 7:9-11)