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Bulletin: December 18, 2022

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Advent’s four Sundays each have their own focus: “Stay awake!” (First); John the Baptist (Second); Rejoice! (Third); Joseph/Mary (Fourth). We might need to have a little pity on the Fourth Sunday, however, since the hectic realities of the secular calendar can overwhelm it, particularly in those years when there are only one or two (or zero!) days before Christmas. This year we have the luxury of a whole week! What shall we do with this gift from God? Perhaps a bit more charity or social action on behalf of God’s poorest. Maybe take some time to listen for the voice of God in our dreams, as Joseph did. Attend daily Mass, Advent reconciliation, or pray the “O” antiphons (which began this Saturday evening). As with every gift, we show true gratitude by using it. Let us do so, as Paul tells us in Romans, for the sake of the name of Jesus, whose coming we await.


Interest in genealogy is much, much older than current fascination with using DNA analysis to trace our heritage. Matthew’s Gospel opens with the genealogy of Jesus, going all the way back to Abraham, Israel’s father in faith. This is what immediately precedes today’s Gospel reading, and is crucial to how we hear the opening sentence: “Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.” It’s not so much as a starting point, but a pivot point that places Jesus firmly in the “house of David” through Joseph (in first-century Judaism, lineage and heritage was traced solely through males). An essential understanding of the Messiah was that he would come from the house and lineage of King David. For those of us who follow Jesus in faith, it’s important to recall that it was through Joseph that Jesus both came from the house of David and was made a son of the covenant of Moses.


Matthew’s Gospel also contains an angelic annunciation scene; we hear from it today. Another pivot point is presented, when the angel says “Do not be afraid to take Mary into your home.” As with most angelic appearances in scripture, the angel provides an instruction not to fear. More importantly, Joseph is instructed by God’s messenger to take Mary into his home. When Joseph and Mary were betrothed, they were officially constituted as husband and wife; the next step—approved by an angel—would have been for Joseph to take Mary into his home. So he provided a safe place for a young woman in a troubled pregnancy, and offered her child a home, a heritage, and a lineage. This rather difficult and risky move on Joseph’s part might inspire us in this season to seek out and help out in those places where people are longing to have a house and—more importantly—a home.

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