Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 22, 2019
Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24

“Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame decided to divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:19

The Emmanuel prophecy against the king that relies on militarism and foreign imperial powers returns this Sunday (See December 10th Scripture readings). Matthew tells us about Joseph acting in a better way. When Mary is found with a child that is not his, the letter of the law calls for her to be violently killed along with her unborn baby. Just as the world would suggest a violent response to invasion so the world suggests a violent response to anyone acting outside of its norms. If someone hurts someone, we should hurt them back to prevent that person or others from doing it again goes that logic. But we’ve been hurting people who hurt people (prison, torture, death penalty, shunning, excommunication, etc.) for thousands of years and still people keep on hurting others, not much of a deterrent. Indeed the people we, as a society, hurt are more likely to hurt more people out of the shame and anger that comes from being the object of such societally-inflicted pain.

Joseph decides instead to respond to the hurt he feels over Mary’s pregnancy with mercy, quietly divorcing her to spare her the shame and punishment of the crowd. But even then he is open to God’s call to do even more. I don’t think he could have heard God in a dream without such openness. When he learns the full truth, he extends his mercy even more fully, taking her into his home and loving and caring for her and her child through adulthood. He sacrifices his own desires.  He refuses to respond to his hurt with more hurt and the world would never be the same.

Today, resolve to love, care, and sacrifice for someone who has hurt you or others you care about and break the cycle of violence. 

Reflection by Brian Ashmankas

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