With Grace and Faith

12-22-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Christmas is shortly upon us. In light of the Gospel reading, perhaps we can use the quiet Saint Joseph as a model for us in these last few days. He was open to God’s will no matter what, and he steadily tried to live the Word of God in his life in the good times, and the bad times, and most especially in the confusing times.

Note how our Old Testament reading is deliberately selected because of its direct connection to the Gospel. The words of the prophet Isaiah used most frequently in the readings during Advent are linked to Matthew’s story of the vision of Joseph, which is brief and quiet in contrast to the drama and noise we read about in Isaiah. King Ahaz was distraught that the massive Assyrian army was lining up on the border land of Judah. Ahaz was desperate for help and grasped at anything and anyone to aid him to win. Ahaz even asked the prophet Isaiah for advice and help. Isaiah told the king that his role as Judah’s king was not to find strength in arms or in worldly alliances, but in the ancient and religious covenant with God. Ahaz was a descendant of the great king David and needed to remember his inheritance. Yet, Ahaz did not want to follow through as he should. He wanted to be mad and blame others. Isaiah reminds him of the sign and promise we hear in today’s Gospel: “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.”

The letter to the Romans from Saint Paul offers a serious and elegant formal announcement to us. In his opening, Paul greets the Romans, and then it makes it clear that he is indeed an apostle and witness to the good news that was promised in the Scriptures. He reminds them that the risen Jesus, of the line of David, is none other than Son of God, Christ, and Lord. These titles are additional titles beyond Isaiah’s “Emmanuel.” Our first two passages introduce the Gospel passage of the vision of Joseph and his role for Mary and the child.

We can presume that Joseph was confused and stunned by the news of Mary’s pregnancy, and he decides to react in an honorable and right way for his era. In the midst of all this turmoil and emotional confusion, Joseph learns that the child is the promised one, who will be named Jesus, meaning “the Lord is salvation.”

After Matthew interjects and reminds us of the prophecy of Isaiah of the virgin birth and the reality of God with us, Joseph immediately changes the direction of his life. He awakens the next morning to a new day and new role in life as directed by the angel. The marriage of Mary and Joseph takes place when Joseph receives Mary into his home as his wife.

We all know that Christmas is fast approaching because images of the infant Jesus abound in art, literature, and music. Most of these images include the infant and his mother, Mary. Some of us ask: “What about Joseph?”

We know that not one single word of Joseph’s has ever been recorded and in fact the Gospels say little about him. However, his example has great meaning to many people. Joseph shows us that knowing and accepting the will of God and then living it with grace and faith in all circumstances is indeed a graced and wonderful way to live.

A Blessed and Merry Christmas to you and all those you hold close in your heart. May the Light of Bethlehem illumine your heart and life each day.

Father Brian