4th Sunday of Advent a: Joseph speaks

For this week’s homily please watch the video below.

Like many you, I guess, I have favorite Christmas pictures I take out these days.  Artists through the centuries have given us a treasure of pictures for this holy season. I see many of my favorites online now; I have some of them on my IPhone.

This one’s from a medieval artist– we don’t have his name– picturing Mary after the birth of Jesus lying down on a bed. Jesus is lying above her in a beautiful crib and two animals, an ox and a donkey are at his side. From her bed Mary points firmly to Joseph, as if to say “He will tell you about this.”

Joseph, his part, has his hand on his head, as if signifying his dream and his hand points upward as if to say, “An angel told me this.”

The whole composition points to Joseph. Even Jesus from his crib looks intently at the man. He will tell you about this. The two animals seem to be looking at each other amazed at the story.

That’s what today’s gospel from Matthew does. It tells us the story of Jesus’ birth as we have it from Joseph.

Matthew’s account of how the birth of Jesus came about draws its story from Joseph of Nazareth, whom he describes as “a righteous man.”  Joseph is a moral and law-abiding Jew who practices his religion and lives by its principles. Now, he’s caught in a painful situation.  

His wife Mary is pregnant and the child is not his. They have not even lived together, in fact; they are only betrothed, which in Jewish practice of the time was considered part of being married. According to Jewish law, he should divorce her, but that seems so harsh.

An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him three things: Don’t be afraid to take Mary into your home as your wife. The son she is carrying has been conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph is to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. 

It’s an announcement appropriately made by a messenger from heaven because it’s beyond human expectations and human reasoning. It’s also an announcement heard by a man attuned to voices from a higher world. Joseph does what the angel directs him to do.

Ordinary believers like us are attracted to this ordinary man, Joseph of Nazareth, because he passes on so simply the tremendous mysteries revealed to him: The Child born of Mary is “God with us.” He is our Savior. Don’t be afraid to believe in him.

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