4th Sunday of Advent (Ages 9-12): Louder Than Words
(You could begin by reading the scripture passage. Better yet, ask someone to read it to you. The Word of God is meant to be heard.)
In Advent, we usually spend a lot of time thinking about the Annunciation to Mary—when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus. This Sunday's Gospel allows us to consider the Annunciation to Joseph—how Joseph discovers who this child is to be.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.
At the beginning of the reading we are told that Joseph knows that Mary is going to have a baby, but that he is not the father. They are not yet married. We understand that he must be hurt to learn this about Mary—she must love someone else. In his hurt, Joseph would have the right to make it public that Mary is pregnant. Then everyone would make Mary feel shame for having betrayed Joseph.
But Joseph does not want to hurt Mary. He decides to break their engagement quietly. This would free Mary to marry someone else and she would not feel shame. He makes his decision. And then he does something strange.
He goes to sleep.
Joseph is an interesting person. He never speaks a word in any of the Gospels. But he dreams a lot. Four times he gets messages from God in his dreams.
We wonder if Saint Matthew, when writing this Gospel, has in mind another Joseph from long, long ago—another Joseph who is a dreamer and who interprets dreams. We find this Joseph in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. This first Joseph listens to God in dreams. He brings his family into Egypt when they can no longer live in Israel. Many, many years later later, Moses, a member of the same family, saves his people by leading them out of slavery back to the Promised Land. The people carry with them the bones of this first Joseph to be buried in Israel.
In this Sunday's Gospel, this new Joseph also listens to God in dreams. After Jesus' birth, he brings his family into Egypt when it is no longer safe for them in Israel. And a member of his family, whom he will name Jesus,
will save his people from their sins.
What can we learn from Joseph?
We can learn to make decisions with God. Joseph does not act hastily. He makes a huge decision that will change the course of his life, and then he turns to God. In the Bible, when someone enters a deep sleep it means that they are submitting to the will of God. It means they choose to do God's will, not their own. We see this with Joseph. He listens to God, and changes his plans. He chooses to do God's will. He does not break the engagement with Mary. Instead, he marries her and raises Jesus as his own child.
Joseph's voice is never heard, but his actions speak so much louder than words. As we go forward in life, we, too, can turn all our decisions over to God. We can listen. We can sit in stillness with God and choose to do God's will. And our actions also will speak so much louder than words.