4th Sunday of Advent

Is 7: 10- 14;             Rom 1: 1-7; Mt 1: 18-24

A woman takes her 16-year-old daughter to the doctor. The doctor says, “Okay, Mrs. Jones, what’s the problem?” The mother says, “It’s my daughter Monica. She keeps getting these cravings; she’s putting on weight and is sick most mornings.” The doctor gives Monica a good examination then turns to the mother and says, “Well, I don’t know how to tell you this but your Monica is pregnant. About 4 months would be my guess.” The mother says, “Pregnant?! She can’t be, she has never ever been left alone with a man! Have you Monica?” Monica says, “No mother! I’ve never even kissed a man!” The doctor walked over to the window and just stares out it. About five minutes pass and finally the mother says, “Is there something wrong out there doctor?” The doctor replies, “No, not really, it’s just that the last time anything like this happened, a star appeared in the east and three wise men came over the hill. I’ll be a fool if I’m going to miss it this time!”

Dear friends! In the first reading we heard, God gives a sign through the prophet Isaiah to King Ahaz of Judah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7: 14) Matthew took pain to present Jesus as fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies. An important point to be noted here; the word fulfillment means far more than fulfilling the utterance of some prophet. It means, above all, the fulfillment of a hope that burned in people’s hearts – the fulfillment of a plan that existed in God’s mind from all eternity. In this sense, especially, Jesus fulfills the OT prophecies. In Jesus, people’s dream comes true. In Jesus, God’s plan becomes reality.

The gospel of the 4th Sunday of Advent this year is Mathew’s version of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem which is different from Luke’s beloved story of a child born in a Bethlehem stable welcomed by humble shepherds and a choir of angels. The carpenter Joseph is the central figure in Mathew’s story. In Mathew’s account, Joseph learns that his fiancée is pregnant. Now, the law required that Mary be stoned to death, because she would have been considered an unfaithful wife, and the baby would have been stoned to death with her.  In Deuteronomy 22:23-24, the penalty for adultery was death by stoning at the door of her father’s house as she had disgraced her father.

Since Joseph was a just man of great mercy, he resolved to divorce Mary quietly so that he might not cause her unnecessary pain.  In doing so, he shows us Christ-like compassion in the face of sin.  He also demonstrates a Godly balance between the Law of Torah and the Law of Love. And then in a dream Joseph learned that the child had been conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that he was to be the foster-father of the Christ, claiming him by naming him, and then rearing him.  Joseph, through trust and faith in God, accepted his mission as the foster-father of the Son of God.

On three occasions an angel appears to Joseph in a dream.   In each instance, the angel calls Joseph to action and Joseph obeys.  He doesn’t have a speaking part.  In this first instance, the angel commands Joseph to take Mary as his wife.   In Mt 2:13, the angel will tell Joseph to take the mother and child to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath.  In Mt 2:19, the angel will, at the death of Herod, tell Joseph to return to Israel. After each of the three angelic apparitions in his dreams, Joseph obeys the angel’s commands without question or pause.  His hallmark is obedience — prompt, simple, and unspectacular obedience.

Let us ask ourselves today, how can we take on the role of Joseph this Christmas by bringing the compassion and forgiveness of God into a difficult and strained situation?

Every one of us is called to be Joseph – to welcome God in our minds. Like Joseph, we need to trust in God, listen to Him and be faithful.  We are here in this church, three days before Christmas, because, like Joseph, we are faithful, and we trust in God, His power and His mercy.  Although we may face financial problems, job insecurity, family problems and health concerns let us try to be trusting and faithful like St. Joseph.   Instead of relying on our own schemes to get us through life, let us trust in God and be strengthened by talking to Him in fervent prayer and by listening to Him speaking through the Bible. Let us remain faithful and prayerful, imitating Joseph and Mary, the humblest of the humble, the kindliest of the kindly, and the greatest-ever believers in God’s goodness and mercy, and welcoming Jesus into our hearts and lives this Christmas.