In Year A of the Lectionary, the Fourth Sunday of Advent honors Joseph. And he was indeed a special person—learning that his fiance was pregnant, still loving her enough to try to shield her from shame, accepting the angel’s statement to stay with Mary, and protecting Mary and Jesus for the remainder of his life. Recall how whenever angels visit, the first words are “Do not be afraid.” How could Joseph not be afraid? And, in fact, he may have been. Yet . . . Joseph faced his fear head on and accepted his God-given role for his life.
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. . . When his [Jesus’] mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. . . . an angel of the Lord appeared to him [Joseph] in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”. . . When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
From sermon4kids.com: “Sometimes you and I may find ourselves in a situation where we don’t know what to do. Like Joseph, we might ask ourselves, “What do I do now?” If we listen, God will tell us what to do.”
Collect: Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Reflection: In Romans 1:1–6, Paul defines himself according to (1) who Jesus is (promised through the prophets), (2) what Jesus gives (grace and apostleship), and (3) why Jesus is for all people (to foster faith). How do those qualities and gifts inform your own definition of self? How might you amend, or more greatly appreciate, your own self-image and the image you have of others because of Jesus?
Practice: Are there times when you are fearful yet step into your fear to accept what you need to do? If you wish, post your comments to our website.
Saint Focus: Samthann is the focus this week. Her story may be more myth than fact. She is one of four Irish folk saints. She inherited an Abbey and became its abbess because she was foreseen to be great [from the Calendar of the church year according to the Episcopal Church.]
This week, the saints under consideration were :
Brain Food: “Any news?” by Alyce McKenzie; “Righteousness redefined”, from Draughting Theology website by Steve Pankey; Prayer for lighting Candle 4: Come, O Holy One, as the beloved child, Emmanuel! Soften our hearts and open our arms for your coming that we may make this a place worthy and warm, kindly and safe for all your children, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Movies/Videos: “A beautiful mind” (2001), accepting life’s challenges; “Smallville” (TV series 2001-2011), Kent struggles to find his way in his new world; “How to train your dragon” (2010), young man understands adversity
Joseph’s acceptance of Mary and the direction of his life is sometimes described as “radical” in that it diverts from what was the “norm” in his day. Law and cultural practice would dictate a divorce, at the minimum, or a stoning for Mary. Joseph chooses to disobey civic, cultural, and religious law and practice to follow the instructions from God’s angels. His was a “disobedient obedience.” Can you think of modern-day examples of disobedient obedience. For more ideas, check out this article. Reflect on: What cause might be worth disobedient obedience? When might following God put one at odds with following law? How does one weigh the cost? What might Joseph’s story teach us?
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On this final Sunday of preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth, the central figures are the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. The Gospel reading is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin. It is this Incarnation—becoming flesh—of God the Son that unites things earthly with things heavenly. In the quiet obedience of Joseph and Mary, we find the model for Christian living that enables us to be extensions of Christ’s Incarnation.
In today’s reading from Isaiah, the prophet foretells the birth of a child in a passage that the New Testament writers, especially Matthew, considered to be fulfilled in Jesus’ birth from Mary.
Jesus’ descent from David, his birth, his death and resurrection, are Paul’s theme in the passage from Romans. That life, death, and resurrection are the source of our new life in Christ, and bring us the grace and power to live in faith and obedience.
The liturgy centers on the fact that God comes to us in and through the material world. He came in the flesh of a human mother and lived within a human family. He comes to us now in bread and wine. He comes to the world in our flesh as we live in faithful obedience to him. The pattern for that obedience is the Holy Family of Nazareth for whom we give thanks today.
From The Rite Light: Reflections on the Sunday Readings and Seasons of the Church Year. Copyright © 2007 by Michael W. Merriman. Church Publishing Incorporated, New York.