Third Friday of Advent

Joseph and JesusWow!  It’s the third Friday of Advent already.  Christmas is just a week from today.  You can tell it’s getting close, not just from the latest “biggest sale of the year”, but because the Church presents us with the story from Matthew’s gospel of how “the birth of Jesus Christ came about.”  It’s such a familiar story that I really don’t know what to say about it that hasn’t already been said.

Maybe we’ll look at it from Joseph’s point of view.  We don’t know a whole lot about Joseph.  Not one single word of his is recorded in any of the four Gospels.  Some scholars think that he was an older man.  Some say he might have been a widower with children from his first wife.  There are some clues, but we really don’t know.

What we do know is this.  He was engaged to a young girl who suddenly became pregnant.  He knew he wasn’t the child’s father.  He thought his fiance was a virgin.  That’s what she told him.  But here she was pregnant with a bizarre story about an angel and the Holy Spirit.  I don’t know about you, but that might be a hard one to swallow.  Remember, in those days people actually followed a moral code, a very strict moral code.  When Mary cloak started stretching at the seams, everyone would assume that Joseph was responsible and that wouldn’t help his carpentry business.  His reputation would be ruined.

So he decided to divorce her quietly.  Then the angel appeared to him in a dream and backed up Mary’s story.  The marriage was back on.  He would raise the Son of God as his own son with all the trials and inconveniences that came with the job.

The last line of the Gospel is one of the things that separate us Catholics from some of our protestant brothers and sisters.  Notice it says, “He had no relations with her until she bore a son.”  We believe that Mary was “ever virgin.”  Anyone who knows Jewish law would understand that if she were ever to have relations with Joseph she would be committing adultery.  In this case, adultery against the Holy Spirit.  That would have been pretty serious stuff.  But our English language doesn’t really translate Matthew’s writing very well.

The words “until she bore a son” could imply that something happened afterwords.  But that’s not the case here.  The way the people would have interpreted it is that they never had relations.  An better example might be “he never smoked another cigarette until he died.”  That doesn’t mean that he started smoking again after he died.  But I digress.

The story of the miraculous conception of Jesus is one of the greatest and most important stories of our Christian history.  As you think about it, put yourself in Joseph’s place.  Would you have done what he did?  Would you have believed an angel who appeared in a dream?  I don’t know about you, but I have some pretty weird dreams sometimes.

But Joseph did believe and followed God’s words and in just seven days we’ll celebrate the story of the little family in the little town of Bethlehem.  Come, Jesus, come.

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