Dec 22, 2019
Fourth Sunday of Advent
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. 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. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Something to Do
Pay Attention to Dreams
Joseph is not the only person to receive a message from God in a dream – which is not to say that all dreams are messages from God but maybe some of them are.
Consider keeping a dream journal or, if you live with other people, get into the habit of sharing your dreams. At the very least, you’ll hold only to some wacky stories and, just maybe, you’ll hear the very voice of God!
Last Minute Preparations
Christmas is right around the corner so take a minute to check in with yourself and your household. What needs doing so that you can really enjoy the celebration?
This might involve some last minute grocery shopping or advanced food prep or house cleaning. It might be decorating or gift wrapping (or gift buying).
Or maybe it is more internal than that. Maybe you need to lay down a grievance or a regret. Maybe you need to express gratitude or love. Maybe you need to find an opportunity for quiet or give one to someone else.
You’ve got a week – so hop to it!
Something to Wonder
They shall name him Emmanuel – “God is with us”
Think of a time when you felt God’s presence with you. What was going on? What did it feel like? How did you react?
Do you often think of God as being here with us? Or do you more often think of God as being beyond us in some way? Which seems more comfortable to you? Why?
Spare a thought for Joseph
Joseph doesn’t get a lot of space in the Biblical story but because of his role in the Christmas story he gets quite a lot of space in our imaginations.
What do you think you know about Joseph?
How do you feel about Joseph?
How do you imagine Joseph’s personality? Describe him as if you were describing someone to a friend who doesn’t know them.
Something to Learn
What Tradition Says about Joseph
Although Joseph does not feature prominently in the Biblical record, Christians through the ages have given lots of thought to him.
The St. Joseph Wikipedia page is, as always, a great place for an overview.
It covers what the Bible says; what other ancient traditions say; and the areas of responsibility Joseph has as patron saint (they are numerous!)
What’s with all the Isaiah?
If you’ve been in church in December, you may have noticed that all of the Old Testament readings have been drawn from the Book of Isaiah. These prophecies have long been interpreted by Christians as pointing to Jesus, the one whom we await in Advent (our Jewish and Muslim siblings obviously have other understandings of those prophecies). In fact, Isaiah is where we get the first mention of the Messiah as Emmanuel.
Watch the Bible Project’s overview of Isaiah from a Christian point of view.
Something to Pray
Holy God, we do not always understand your word or your ways.
Give us wisdom and imagination and courage as we learn and grow.
The story this week has made me wonder about…
(what questions are still on your heart?)
Receive my questions and help me hear your answers.
The story this week has filled me with…
(how are you feeling?)
Accept my praise, heal my hurt, ease my worry.
The story this week has reminded me of…
(are there situations or people you are thinking of?)
Be with all who are in need of you.
In Jesus’ name, we pray.