This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)
As we journey through the Advent season and await the birth of our Lord, we are directed through the daily readings to pause and reflect upon the humble obedience of St. Joseph, and his often overlooked participation in the manifestation of God’s plan.
It is here we meet a man of God, one imbued with holy fear and integrity. Though we do not hear from him, and very little is written of him. What we do know invites our reverent attention. We see a man, notably righteous and praiseworthy for his obedient action.
His character is marked not by what little is said, but by the integrity of his actions. When the angel of the Lord appears to St Joseph to announce to him the birth of Jesus, his waking actions express the same surrender to our Lord’s will that did the words of Mary. Both of them say “Be it done to me according to your will…” in their own way. This assures of God’s plan to unfold. It also speaks to us boldly of the nature of human relations and the importance of our individual wills being so unreservedly hidden in the will of God.
We can interpret this scripture of course, within context and time. We can critique the response of Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph as one imbued with such holiness as a result of humility born from simplicity of living, though we are false to do so. For surely the time surrounding them was very dark. The world had grown incredibly disobedient to the will of God. There was great sin, there was arguably as much darkness as what faces us today. It is important that before we prepare an abode for the Lord’s birth in our hearts that we journey with St. Joseph and our Blessed Mother, that we learn from their hiddenness, and from their surrender to God’s will. That we take time for silence and to put down our phones. For the Lord does not come to us in tweets and Instagram posts, but in the radical silence of a heart suspended in prayer.
As followers of Christ with the “fullness” of the story in many ways, we look forward to the manger, yet we are mindful of the shadow of the cross overhead. We long to rejoice at the manger, while also recognizing that we too are called to rejoice at the exaltation of the cross. We miss numerous teachings of importance from our Lord if we jump prematurely from Bethlehem to Calvary without first walking the way of humble obedience into the unknown.
This is way that God’s providence unfolds. It is not necessarily filled with clarity or ease, it is marked by difficult choices, it is marked by self-sacrifice, it is a quiet prompting in the heart that invites our trust and our journeying, despite what we perceive to be, and continue trusting with hope for what is to come. While the manger with it’s Light beckons us, I see the light born from the Cross quietly shadowing overhead, to teach us all the more of the fragility of Christ’s infancy, commanding our surrender and humility so pure as to not only await Him,but to prepare ourselves to be pure enough to hold Him with the arms of innocence and selflessness .To become tiny enough amidst the greatness of our concerns and trust lovingly in His patient evolving providence.
Though the angel of the Lord appears both to Mary and Joseph to tell of God’s plan, the visitation is different for both of them. By this we understand the unique way that God’s will manifests to each of us. For He well knows our individual needs, and how we will best receive Him and hear Him. And yet, we are not coerced into something, we are not forced into obedience, and neither were Mary and Joseph. Their will was God’s will. As we come to see throughout our Salvation history, this abandonment to the will of God did not make life “easy” or less burdensome, but imbued it with consolation and a divine providence to carry out even what was most difficult with immense grace. Their marital union was strengthened by their essential desire to fulfill the will of God. This is an essential message for us.
As a young married woman, mindful of the numerous practical tensions that arise daily in married life, there is within it all a very necessary supernatural element that must be remembered. This is to recall the implications of a sacramental union it is to be attentive always to the will of God and push ours out of the way, by clinging to God and stirring up the sacramental grace by sacrifice and surrender. We have erred greatly to expect happiness only out of marriage, opposed to a deep spiritual accompaniment and means to sanctity.
As we pause today to reflect on St. Joseph and the boldness of his waking from slumber to obedient action , we should pray for his intercession in our lives to help us be open to God’s will, to put aside our fear , preparing to receive the infant Jesus into our hearts and trusting with hope for what is to come.
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
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