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Louder than words

4th Sunday of Advent, Year A

  • 9-12 year olds

But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’

In Advent, we usually spend a lot of time thinking about the Annunciation to Mary--when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is going to be the mother of Jesus. This Sunday's Gospel allows us to consider the Annunciation to Joseph--how Joseph is told who this child is to be.

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 to have 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 this decision and then he does something strange. He goes to sleep.

just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream

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.

I wonder if St. Matthew, when writing this Gospel, had in mind another Joseph from long, long ago, another Joseph who was a dreamer and who interpreted dreams. We can find this Joseph in the first book of the bible, Genesis. This first Joseph listened to God in dreams. He brought his family into Egypt when they could no longer live in Israel. Many, many years later later, Moses, a member of the same family, saved his people by leading them out of slavery back to the Promised Land. The people carried with them the bones of this first Joseph to be buried in Israel.

In today's Gospel, this new Joseph also listens to God in dreams. After Jesus' birth, he will bring his family to 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 will also speak so much louder than words.

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