A reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent (Year A)
The Gospel today shows highlights for us the crisis at the first Christmas. (Matthew 1.18-24)
We may picture the first Christmas to be like what we see on many Christmas cards, a peaceful, picture perfect night, but the Gospel today offers us a moment to internalize and connect with the events preceding Christ’s birth. As we look back on these events we can see God’s hand in the work of salvation, yet I’ma sure at the time for Joseph and Mary God’s plan wasn’t so clear.
For Mary maybe you can see how difficult it would have been, being found to be with child before she married. How is she supposed to explain this, being impregnated with God’s child, without sounding crazy? How were her family, and Joseph and his family supposed to understand? As for Joseph, we can perhaps feel his struggle. What was he supposed to think? Can you imagine his anxiety and confusion? And also being under the pressure of the Law and custom to have her killed (for being with child, not of him).
Like Joseph & Mary, how do we respond in our own lives when things don’t go as we think they should? Perhaps we build things up in our own minds and fabricate our own way through instead of asking the Lord to show us a way through, a way to understand, a path of clarity.
In the Gospel we hear how an angel appeared to Joseph in his dream and revealed God’s will for his situation. Notice how his first words are “do not be afraid”. Now it is usually never this easy for us, but it gives us an opportunity to ponder how God speaks to us. Are we leaving room in our lives for Him to speak to us and to reveal his plans?
Recently I have been reflecting and praying about something in my own spiritual journey that has been repeatedly coming up, in conversation and in reading scripture, and, although it is not a crisis, it has caused me to look past the surface of what I would think God is saying to how he is truly speaking, to my soul. I can picture how, in a different situation under stress, I may not have had the same clarity or openness.
It really is quite beautiful that while God could have saved us any number of ways he chose to come among us and become one of us. He came into the world because of our great need. He came into the world prophesied by Isaiah as Emmanuel (‘God with us’) and foretold by the angel to be named Jesus (‘God saves’), both which we hear in the Gospel today. He comes into our turmoil, our anxiety, our crisis, our need! He comes into our daily lives as a child bringing change, but also a joy and a peace.
So as we draw nearer to his birth at Christmas let us remember God is with us, to save us, from our anxiety, our doubts, our fears, our lack of faith, in whatever we are going through. He gives us the example of Joseph and Mary today in order to realize that we need to open ourselves to how He is speaking to us and embrace the clarity that he offers when we lay aside our own plans and seek his. He comes amidst us no matter what the situation of our life may be this Christmas, we can find him wherever we may be if we are open to his voice speaking to us.