Thoughts on the Readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent (A) 2014

Readings:          Isaiah 7: 10-14          Romans 1: 1-7          Matthew 1: 18-24  


With just a few days before Christmas, our Gospel reading for this fourth Sunday of Advent tells us “how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.”    Although Mary and Joseph were betrothed, they were not yet married, and yet we are told that Mary was “found with child though the Holy Spirit.”  Joseph, who at this point did not know that Mary had conceived through the Holy Spirit, decided to divorce Mary quietly.   “Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her ……………… When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”  


Because this Gospel is so familiar, it would be easy to fail to appreciate its message.   Not only does it remind us of our belief that Jesus Christ truly is the Son of God, but also it reminds us that having faith doesn’t mean that we will always understand God’s will and work, or that our faith will provide the answers to our questions. Certainly this was the case with Joseph.  


Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  From our Christian perspective, it contains a prophecy of Christ’s birth.  “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:  the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”  


Our second reading this weekend is the opening verses of the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans.   Paul begins this letter by identifying himself and his mission.  “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness……………….”  


Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. I think Joseph is a model of faith in that without understanding he believed.  Have you ever not understood and yet believed? 
2.  Joseph came to know God’s will through a dream.   How else might you come to know God’s will?
3.  Paul identified himself as a slave of Christ Jesus.   With the connotations that the word “slave” has, I feel a bit uncomfortable with this.   What about you? 

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