On this Fourth and final Sunday of Advent, we have a story about Joseph as told by Saint Matthew. There are so few stories where Joseph is even named in the New Testament that is good to read this one carefully. Interestingly, we have no words from Joseph himself in this story or for that matter in any other story that mentions him in the New Testament. he is a quiet, but righteous man, doing what is right in the sight of God.
Thus, Joseph’s desire to end his relationship with Mary quietly upon finding out that she is with child is in keeping with his character. Technically, Mary could be exposed to the law, which would mean a death sentence. But Joseph is not that kind of person. He is content instead to handle this matter discreetly. Such was his intention before the appearance of an angel in a dream.
As Saint Luke tells the story, an angel by the name of Gabriel appeared to Mary. But in Saint Matthew’s story, and unnamed angel appears to Joseph in a dream. The two stories are not necessarily contradictory, and, in fact, many find them complementary. But each Evangelist is relating his story on its own terms. Neither seems to have been aware of the other. That is, Saint Luke had not read Saint Matthew’s Gospel and Saint Matthew had not read Saint Luke’s.
The appearance of an angel in Joseph’s dream is enough to change his mind. He takes his wife into his home in Bethlehem (not Nazareth, as Saint Luke has it). Later the child will be born there, at the home. Again, this is not Saint Luke’s story of the family in Nazareth going to Bethlehem for the census. Saint Matthew’s story has no census. Joseph and Mary live in their home in Bethlehem where Mary will soon give birth.
On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, the stage is set for Christmas morning, the Nativity of the Lord. A discreet, quiet man who does what is right in the sight of God has taken the pregnant Mary into his home as his wife. What was a scandal worthy of death under the law has been directed by an angel in a dream into safety and security for the woman and her unborn child. God is doing something new.
“Ready or not, here we come” is a phrase often repeated in the game of hide and seek. It is a phrase appropriate for this Fourth Sunday of Advent. Christmas will be here soon whether we are ready or not. And as Christmas is the celebration of the birth of a child, we see that this phrase is appropriate for that, too. Many parents reach a sometimes-startling conclusion that the baby will be here whether they are ready or not.
Our Advent has undoubtedly been spent in various kinds of preparation. But no matter how much preparation we’ve done, there’s likely a whole lot more we could do. In the end, the day is going to come whether we are ready or not. Despite all of our planning or lack thereof, soon the celebration will begin. In these remaining days, let us die to anything that takes our focus away from the reason for the preparation ... the Reason for the Season. The Christ Child is about to be born. Life has profound meaning. Ready or not, Christmas is coming.
May Saint Michael the Archangel defend, guide, protect, and intercede for us always! May you and your families have a Blessed Christmas and Christmas Season!
~ Fr. Larry