A virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel: God with us. Matthew 1:23
you chose the virgin Mary, by your grace,
to be the mother of our Lord and Saviour:
so fill us with your grace,
that with her we may rejoice in your salvation,
and in all things embrace your will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of
the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
- Isaiah 7:10-16
- Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
- Romans 1:1-7
- Matthew 1:18-25
- Isaiah 63:7-9
- Psalm 148
- Hebrews 2:10-18
- Matthew 2:13-23
Fourth Sunday of Advent
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.”
The last week of Advent shifts our focus from the promise of the Messiah to the fulfillment of that promise in the events surrounding Jesus’ birth.
Today’s Gospel is Matthew’s version of Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem. This is not Luke’s familiar story of a child born in a Bethlehem stable, but that of a young unmarried woman suddenly finding herself pregnant and her very hurt and confused husband wondering what to do. In Gospel times, marriage was agreed upon by the groom and the bride’s parents almost immediately after the age of puberty; but the girl continued to live with her parents after the wedding until the husband was able to support her in his home or that of his parents. During that interim period, marital intercourse was not permissible. Yet Mary is found to be with child.
Joseph, an observant but compassionate Jew, does not wish to subject Mary to the full fury of Jewish law, so he plans to divorce her “quietly.” But in images reminiscent of the First Testament “annunciations” of Isaac and Samuel, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and reveals that this child is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Because of his complete faith and trust in God’s promise, Joseph acknowledges the child and names him Jesus(“Saviour”) and becomes, in the eyes of the Law, the legal father of Jesus. Thus, Jesus, through Joseph, is born a descendent of David.
Matthew’s point in his infancy narrative is that Jesus is the Emmanuel promised of old – Isaiah’s prophecy has finally been fulfilled in Jesus: the virgin has given birth to a son, one who is a descendent of David’s house (through Joseph). Jesus is truly Emmanuel–“God is with us.”
In Christ, the Spirit of God who inspired the prophets to preach, who enabled the nation of Israel to enter into the covenant with Yahweh, intervenes and sanctifies all of human history.
The “mystery” of the Incarnation is not that God could become one of us – the inexplicable part is how and why God could love humankind enough to humble himself to take on the human condition and walk with us, talk with us, die for us.
We have reason to rejoice and to hope, for in our midst dawns Emmanuel–“God with us.”
Joseph, the “just” and “upright” man, is a model of compassion, forgiveness and faith for all of us who are mums and dads, children, brothers and sisters. God’s coming depends on “Josephs” – men and women of humility, selflessness and openness of heart and spirit – to welcome him and embrace his presence in our midst. © Connections/MediaWorks
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