Fourth Sunday of Advent, 18th December 2022

Matthew 1:18–24

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.


St. Matthew begins his gospel in a typical Hebrew fashion by giving the genealogical table of Jesus, who was born of Mary (1:1-16). He does not mention the Annunciation, nor Mary’s problem of preserving virginity while becoming a mother. But the revelation given to Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, which Matthew here describes, brings out the fact of the virginal conception of Jesus, and his messianic mission of salvation. Matthew then adds that Christ was the Messiah, to be born of a virgin, of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke, seven centuries earlier.

If God had preserved the kingdom of Judah (which he could so easily have done), and if the Messiah, the son of David, were to be born in the royal palace in Jerusalem, it would be natural and we would almost say, more fitting the dignity of the Messiah. Instead, God allowed the kingly line, and the throne of Judah, to disappear, and he chose a humble carpenter of Nazareth, a true descendant of David but a lowly one, to be the foster father of his divine son, when he took human nature and came on earth to dwell among us. But God’s way are not our ways. It is not by their social standing, nor by their bank accounts, that God values men. Virtue is the scale he uses when weighing men. In God’s eyes, no king sat on the throne of Judah, not even David himself, who was were acceptable to God as foster father for his Son, than the carpenter of Nazareth.

This is the last Sunday of our preparation for Christmas, the anniversary of Christ’s birth. Like Joseph, we can all feel unworthy of the honour of welcoming him into our hearts and our homes. We are indeed unworthy, not because we have little of this world’s goods, but because we have so little humility, so little charity, so little faith and trust in God’s goodness. Let us try to imitate Joseph and Mary, the humblest of the humble, the kindliest of the kindly, and the greatest-ever believers in God’s goodness and nervy. We can never hope to equal them, but we can follow them humbly from afar.

The feast of Christmas should draw the hearts of every child of God towards the furnace of divine love. In the manger, the infinite love of God for us miserable sinners is dramatically and forcefully portrayed before our eyes. In that helpless baby, represented by a statue, we know that the person, and the power, of omnipotent Creator and sustainer of the universe lie hidden. He came on earth to bring us to heaven. He hid his divine nature so that he could cover us with it

But though we are unworthy of his infinite love, it nevertheless stands out as clear as the noonday sun in the Incarnation. We realize that we can never make ourselves worthy of this infinite love, but let us imitate Joseph and accept the honour which god is giving us, as we trust that he will continue to make us daily less unworthy. Amen.