A busy last few days of Advent, with all the concerns about the celebration of Christmas at the end of the week – the weather, the food, the cards & presents, family relationships, lack of money, travel, church services, and so on! No time to log on and read a blog – facing all sorts of minor and major dilemmas! For the 4th Sunday of Advent we have Joseph as companion. Joseph is usually portrayed as the silent type, hovering at the edge of the nativity scene, or even asleep in a corner of the stall. Matthew gives us a very different picture, placing Joseph centre-stage, pivotal character in the story of Christ’s birth – and through his experience, illustrating how the external forces beyond our control are often those which have the most powerful and significant effect in shaping our lives. Have you ever made up your mind about something important – and then had to change it because of someone else’s greater need? How did you come to that decision, what forces were at work, and what blessings came from it?
Let’s recap Sunday’s Gospel for a moment: Mary, at stage one of her betrothal to Joseph, is pregnant, and he is not the father. He loves her and sees the solution, in obedience to the Law, as a quiet divorce, avoiding shaming Mary by a public scene. Having made up his mind, he goes to bed. In a dream that night an angel comes to him saying ‘Do not be afraid to take Mary to your home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus’. Joseph affirms Mary’s ‘Yes’ with his own courageous response, completing his betrothal by taking Mary to his home as his wife, offering her and the child Jesus security, love and protection.
- What major decisions have you faced in your life? How did you make up your mind?
- Have you ever said ‘Yes’ to a different course of action from the one you had planned?
- Do you believe that God is with you, now, today, whatever your circumstances?
I’m told that Joseph is the patron saint of anyone who has to change and adapt their lives because of someone else’s needs. Perhaps this week, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, we can reflect on Joseph, and thank God for all those people ‘off stage’ in our own lives who have said ‘yes’ for our sake, and nourished, guided, encouraged and enabled us to live out our calling. Parents, grandparents, friends….?