St. Joseph betrothed to the Blessed Mother Mary and the foster father of Jesus is the focus on the last Sunday of Advent. We are told the birth of Jesus came about in a way which seemed to be scandalous. Before they lived to together as husband and wife, Mary was already pregnant.
The moral expectation when Mary was found with child, was clear. Children were supposed to be conceived only within the union of husband and wife. Faithful to God’s commandments, St. Joseph could only surmise one conclusion: Mary must have engaged in an immoral act before marriage. Not wanting to cause her shame, he decided to divorce her quietly in an attempt to keep her from shame.
St. Joseph’s first inkling about divorcing Mary quietly, was for him, a righteous way to proceed. His plan was securely in place in his mind before he went to sleep for the day. How often do we retire with plans in our mind only to wake with a different disposition in the morning. Perhaps this is what is meant by “sleeping on it”.
While he slept, “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. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”
St. Joseph’s visit by the angel is arguably the most important dream ever experienced. God chose to visit St. Joseph and explain his mystery and Joseph’s involvement in the only way Joseph could receive it most clearly. Joseph by being asleep was completely open to the angel’s proclamation without any of his potential objections ever surfacing. He was in essence a captive audience listening to the angel’s explanation without any of his biases obscuring the will of God.
Remember, he had not yet understood the great mystery of which he was to play an important role in the history of salvation. Understandably confused, St. Joseph was already chosen to be part of the great mystery he could not even to begin to fathom without the aid of God’s word.
When God spoke to St. Joseph in his dream, he still had free will to denounce the message as a fantasy or a quirk of his overactive mind during his sleep. St. Joseph did neither, he accepted the dream as truth “and he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” An incredible act of faith to believe the message of an angel through a dream. St. Joseph’s response is so dramatic it can rightly be understood as the second annunciation of God before the birth of Christ.
Whenever we hear the word annunciation, inevitably we bring to mind Mary’s contribution. Indeed, this is correct, but I would like to suggest Joseph’s annunciation story deserves our attention as well. Simply, it is the moment when Joseph was visited in a special way by God. Joseph, a man conceived with original sin, like you and me, a man doing his best to follow the Lord with all his failings and short-comings and yet he believed and said yes to God’s wish to save his people.
On the Sunday before Christmas, we still have a week to awe in the faith of St. Joseph who said ‘yes’ directly after his own annunciation.