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Fourth Sunday of Advent
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, I want to be humble, righteous, and merciful like Joseph. I see that you chose him in advance to do your will in order to fulfill your plan of salvation. Help me to see that I have a part to play as well, and may my “yes” bring you much glory.
- God Is in the Details: We read: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.” Then unfolds the story of Joseph’s role in the birth of Christ. He is called “Joseph, son of David” by the angel in the dream because it is through his lineage that Jesus will be the rightful heir to David’s throne. It was no coincidence that Joseph was of the house of Judah. Although this small detail may seem insignificant, it was of utmost importance in order to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies. Even today, God uses the smallest details of our lives to continue to bring about salvation. Who I am, the timing of my birth, my family of origin, my unique giftedness are all part of God’s plan to bring Christ into the world today. Only we can fulfil the role he has ordained for us, now, at this very moment in time.
- We Must Choose to Be Righteous Even If…: “Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention…” Did Joseph felt betrayed and hurt by what everyone perceived as Mary’s infidelity? How commendable it was of him to do the right thing (divorce Mary quietly) instead of having her stoned, which was permitted by law at that time. What a role model for Jesus he must have been! We, too, must choose to be “righteous” even when we are wronged (or so we think) and leave the restitution up to God.
- God Rewards Good Intentions: What the angel told Joseph must have brought him great relief: “For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her…” And then Joseph did something that may have seemed very odd to anyone who knew of Mary’s pregnancy. “He took his wife into his home.” Our good intentions cannot stop at good intentions! We must follow through–all the way to the end. Like Joseph, God says to us, “Do not be afraid…” We can count on God’s help to finish whatever God calls us to do.
Conversing with Christ: O Jesus, help me to be open to your plans, even if they look completely different from my own. Give me the grace to choose to be righteous, to act on my good intentions, and to be merciful. because Lord, on my own, I will surely fail. Help me to look and act more and more like you, who I now see learned righteousness not only from God the Father, but from your earthly father, Joseph, as well.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will choose to do “the right thing” in big and small ways, even when it hurts, even if it means my plans are interrupted to fulfill your plan.
For Further Reflection: Check out An Invitation to Faith: An A to Z Primer on the Thought of Pope Benedict XVI, Ignatius Press, Page 40-42 (J is for Joseph—The way of humility).
Melissa Overmyer is a convert to Catholicism; founder of the Georgetown Women’s Bible Study and Something Greater Ministries; and author of Born to Soar, Unleashing God’s Word in Your Life, a weekly blog at www.somethinggreater.net, and daily posts on IGTV (melissaovermyer). She is working on her master’s degree in Theology at Augustine Institute.