Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A, 18 December, 2022: Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24
Is Advent the commemoration of events past, an exercise in nostalgia? Does Advent celebrate God’s salvific engagement in the messiness of being human or is it merely a distraction from our current problems, fears, doubts and questions? Or could those very uncertainties force us to go deeper, shaping our expectations to receive what God would give us in this unique and unrepeatable moment?
Joseph is described as a righteous man who is ready to follow proper and discrete procedures to save face and protect his betrothed in a very delicate situation. That’s not the sort of person I’d recognize as a risk-taker. I’m surprised that a man who would take the methodical path of a quiet divorce would believe the contents of a dream. But he does!
What has happened? I can only conclude that his anguish has stripped him of his defenses and habits; they have pushed him to a deeper level where he has discovered unsuspected potentials, a new way of operating—and trusting. Perhaps he no longer tried to keep his fears and uncertainties at bay, but permitted them to reshape his needs and how God, and only God, could help.
How often do I limit my response to God’s call by my narrow sense of propriety, presuming that God is as constrained by my cherished values as I am? How often do I underestimate my God-given capabilities?
From here on in, as reported in Matthew’s Gospel, Joseph will take risks. Perhaps a more accurate way of saying that is: Joseph will trust God without qualification. Hasn’t that trust been prepared by Joseph’s doubts and fears? Haven’t they disposed him to receive God’s necessary and desired engagement?