Fourth Sunday of Advent, 18 December

Matthew 1:18–24

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him 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.” All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.


We all familiar with today’s Gospel and the story in it. However, it would be for our benefit to treat it as we have never come across with it before, so that we can read it and meditate it with our fresh eyes and mind.

The beginning of the Gospel tells us that Jesus is the Messiah. Thus his birth is different from all of us. However, the birth of Jesus is not yet the focus of today’s Gospel. It is his parents, Joseph and Mary.

Let’s look at Mary first. The Gospel does not say much about her feelings or her actions. It simply mentions that she had been engaged to Joseph and before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Unlike, Luke, Matthew did not anything about the Annunciation and the Visitation. We cannot draw any inference about Mary’s feelings of her pregnancy. But, this is where Matthew speaks more powerfully about Mary than Luke does. Matthew leaves us the space to be with Mary. That space is the same how Mary spent with her pregnancy.

Note here, how Mary accepted the pregnancy and how she gave up herself for the greater glory of God. She spoke not even a single word. She left herself totally in God’s hands. She was so passive that the Gospel mentioned nothing about her reaction at all. More than that, Mary also left herself to Joseph.

Now we turn to Joseph. He was a descendent of King David. He did not live in palace now but earned his bread as a carpenter. How did he find out Mary was pregnant was not our business. We are more interested in how he dealt with the news. We are told that he planned to dismiss her quietly because he was a righteous man who did not want to expose her to public disgrace. Many of us nowadays might take the same course in such situation as Joseph did. But the really question that we should ask is does my own skin would also be saved by not exposing someone to public disgrace? Or is it good enough, on my part, not to expose others to public disgrace?

I believe that there was some kind of struggling within Joseph. Do we not have the same struggling experience as Joseph did?

Being a Christians, we all experience the long and painful journey to do God’s will instead of our own will, because this is our vocation. Like Joseph, we all have our own fears and hesitations. The important thing that we can learn from Joseph is to spend some time with God in silence and to find out what exactly is my vocation. For Joseph, his vocation was to name Jesus and to be his guardian. What is my vocation?

Note verses 23 and 24. Verse 23 is about the prophecy of Isaiah: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.” And verse 24 tells us that the action taken by Joseph after the dream really fulfilled the prophecy. God’s prophecy can only be actualized when we, human beings, take action.

Today’s Gospel is really a beautiful cooperation between God and mankind to bring peace to the earth. Pray that I can recognize the Spirit in my hearts and invite the Spirit to prompt me. Amen.