The Gospel of Matthew 1:18-25
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 fulfill 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, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
FOURTH ADVENT CANDLE IS LIGHTED Today we relight the first three candles of the Advent Wreath — the candles of HOPE, PEACE, and JOY. Now we light the fourth candle of Advent. This is the candle of LOVE. Jesus demonstrated self-giving love in his ministry as the Good Shepherd. Advent is a time for kindness, thinking of others, and sharing with others. It is a time to love as God loved us by giving us his most precious gift. As God is love, let us be love also. In the Book of Deuteronomy, we find these words:
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”—Deuteronomy 10:17-19a from the Gospel of John we hear: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”—John 13:34-35
Let us Pray: Teach us to love, O Lord. May we always remember to put you first as we follow Christ’s footsteps, that we may know your love and show it in our lives. As we prepare for our celebration of Jesus’ birth, also fill our hearts with love for the world, that all may know your love and the one whom you have sent, your son, our Savior. Amen.
It is hard to disagree with Joseph’s initial reaction to not marrying Mary because he was not the child’s father. Imagine how powerful his mystical experience must have been to calm his doubts and fear, leading Joseph to love Mary and share Jesus as both his and God’s son. Like Joseph, if you are a loving father of a child that is not yours, as faith-filled people, we are grateful for your righteousness, grace, and trust in the Lord. Our prayers today need to be for the many children who do not have a father or father figure in their lives. “He will need a father like you to teach him to take risks like the one you are about to take, for he will be tempted not to take them. And Joseph awoke from sleep and said, “Not my will, but thine be done.” In this way, I imagine the father of our Lord was born that night Jesus is not the only one who needs an example like Joseph. For we all struggle with tough situations and yearn for assurance from one who knows from experience that God’s unbelievable good news is true! If we prayerfully ponder the example of Joseph this Advent, surely God will work in us as God worked in him. I believe that we’re all a little like Joseph; we all limit ourselves by our tried-and-true ways of doing things. We each have our own ways of dealing with personal, spiritual, and professional matters, our own ways of moving through this demanding season of the year. Perhaps there is a voice we’re already dimly aware of from a dark, subterranean, and mysterious place. Perhaps it’s a voice we’re trying to avoid, a voice that is asking us to go beyond those tried-and-true ways in order to surrender more fully to God and to assist in the coming of Emmanuel “God with us” in our own lives and in the life of the world. What things that we wish we could dismiss quietly might we be asked to make our own? “Do not be afraid,” the angel is saying to you and to me about making these mysterious things our own. “Do not be afraid.” But still in today’s world sometimes it is very difficult to not be Afraid. Are we like Joseph and willing to listen to the word of God and take those steps that keep us from really being afraid? If God’s Spirit was able to do what was considered the impossible with Elizabeth and Mary, who knows what “impossible” ventures God is planning for you? The angel’s assurance to Mary is also a word of comfort to each of us: “Don’t be afraid, for you have found favor with God. The Holy Spirit will be with you.” if you act in good faith. Remember: If you do not walk the hard road to Bethlehem, who will teach us how to climb the cruel hill to Calvary?
Let us Pray: Lord – may this Christmas season be for us and for those around us a season of healing, may it be a season of hope, peace and of love and of joy, may it be a time of true sharing and of rejoicing in all the earth. This we pray in your name. Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.