The story of Jesus' birth recalls how the angel Gabriel appeared before a young woman in Nazareth. Scripture describes their encounter including Mary's confusion, fear and the words of Gabriel: Do not be afraid. It also tells of Mary's acceptance: Let it be as you have said. Let it be. We think of Mary when we think of the Annunciation. But, as the Gospel according to Matthew tells us, Joseph also played a part here.
Since the Reformation, emphasis has been on Joseph not as father of Jesus, but as the husband of Mary to make things look proper. Actually, Joseph finds himself caught up in a cosmic drama of redemption without ever being asked. He is simply told that the woman to whom he is engaged was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit not by him.
So Joseph was placed by God, no less in the predicament of marrying a woman who would be seen as unfaithful, or of ending the relationship with her and there by preserving the community standards. He could expose the one he loved to public disgrace possibly even death or he could take Mary as his wife and share the shame living day after day as a member of the community that regarded his wife as a tainted woman. What was he to do?
There is no hint of anything except an overwhelming concern for Mary's public reputation - there is not angry outburst, no violence to Mary, no consultation with experts in the law. Matthew simply says that Joseph was a righteous man, and for that reason he planned to dismiss her quietly salvaging, in effect, her reputation and his.
But something happened, didn't it? And it is in this action that Joseph becomes more than the husband of Mary. He becomes the father of Jesus. The sacrifice and faithfulness of both Mary and Joseph were essential for the birth of Jesus. Joseph affirms the worthiness of Mary unconditionally. In the midst of things he cannot comprehend, disturbing things, mysterious things, he affirms Mary anyway. And, in doing so, he affirms the child Jesus that is within her. He awakes from sleep, and acts on the message that he hears from the angel of the Lord. He takes Mary as his wife, and he welcomes Jesus into his life.
Joseph made a decision to let Jesus be born into his life when he took Mary as his wife. We find ourselves in the same place: we must make a decision to allow Jesus to be born into our lives or not. Like Joseph, we must be present. We must trust. We must decide, through the prompting of the Spirit, to step out in faith for Jesus' sake. When all the evidence to the contrary says that we should play it safe to follow the conventional wisdom of dismissing quietly the direction of the Lord, we must follow Joseph's way of being faithful in spite of. We must be true to our conviction.
Even when we are sure, a voice from within, or a voice from without, whispers. Maybe I am wrong . . . the dream is only a dream, not reality . . . don't be a fool . . . look out for yourself. In these situations of conviction surrounded by doubt, when things outwardly at least seem out of control, the words of the angel to Joseph take on their highest significance: Do not let fear overwhelm faith, he was told. Do not let fear overwhelm faith, we are told.
Source: Daniel Rondeau
Photo: St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus, Guido Reni
View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.
©2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.