4th Sunday of Advent - Cycle A
“When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” (Matthew 1:24)
The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of Jesus’s birth, beginning when Mary and Joseph are betrothed but not yet living together. There was no human way Mary could have been with child, unless she was unfaithful to Joseph or Joseph had taken liberties with her before it was right for him to do so. Even if Mary shared the truth with her family and Joseph’s–that she conceived a child through the Holy Spirit–the reality must have been hard to believe. And in the eyes of their neighbors, her pregnancy stains both of their reputations.
Joseph is at a crossroads. Should he continue his arrangement with a woman who could be carrying another man’s child? Or should he correct people’s false judgements about his character and let Mary face judgment alone? The Gospel of Matthew tells us that “Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.”
We are called to believe fully in God’s miracles, but others may judge us for our beliefs and values. Like Joseph, we may be tempted to outthink a situation and find the middle road in order to be accepted by others, rather than humbly submitting to the will of God.
Joseph dreams about an angel of the Lord, who tells him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Upon waking, he does as commanded. Not all of us are so lucky to receive direct instruction, but we can learn from Joseph’s receptiveness to God’s word. The situation has not changed. Joseph and Mary still have a difficult road ahead, but they have comfort knowing that God will literally be with them and will use their situation to bring about the salvation of the world.
In the same way, the Lord comes to us in our own difficult circumstances, asking us to trust in Him even when life is not going smoothly. In fact, that is when He does His best work. We can take a cue from Joseph and cease trying to think of a way out, because God has His own plans to provide for us. All we need to do is trust and go where he leads.