Matthew 1:18-23 NRSVue
18Now 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 pregnant from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to divorce her quietly. 20But 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. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23“Look, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.”
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Some thoughts on this scripture
Jean Paul Sartre, in his Christmas play /Barjona/, tries to imagine Joseph in Bethlehem: /I would not paint Joseph. I would show no more than a shadow at the back of the stable, and two shining eyes. For I do not know what to say about Joseph, and Joseph does not know what to say about himself. He adores, and is happy to adore, and he feels himself slightly out of it. I believe he suffers without admitting it. He suffers because he sees how much this woman whom he loves resembles God; how she is already at the side of God. For God has burst like a bomb into the intimacy of this family. Joseph and Mary are separated for ever by this explosion of light. And I imagine that all through his life Joseph will be learning to accept this./
Joseph often seems a shadowy support role in the nativity scene. I spend some time with him today, appreciating his integrity, valuing his ability to discern and recognising that God gave him a message of encouragement.
Joseph, although he had made up his mind, was prepared to let his dream speak. I ask for the grace to be able to bring my decisions before God, allowing my heart to be shaped and my mind to be changed.
What do we know about St Joseph? That he loved Mary so much that he suppressed his doubts about her chastity and allowed himself to be regarded as the father of her child, knowing that he wasn't (when Jesus took the floor in the Nazareth synagogue [Luke 4,22], the begrudgers remarked: /Is not this the son of Joseph?/); that he brought up that child as his own, despite great difficulties and dangers, particularly at the start; that he taught him his trade; that he loved him; and that Jesus' virile health as an adult (physical stamina, courage, strength of purpose and attractiveness to women, men and children) is proof of good parenting by his foster-father. Joseph is the obvious patron of adoptive fathers.
The name of Jesus, ‘Emmanuel’ or ‘God is with us’ is like a mantra which will be a name for Jesus. We can look at everything he does, and everything that happens to him with these words echoing like a chorus or featured like a backdrop behind him. Because of him we are all Emmanuel; God is with us still in a special way because he was in Jesus in a special way. We could look this day at everyone we meet and say ‘Emmanuel’.