Joseph was a righteous man. To be called a righteous man in Joseph’s world was high praise indeed. A righteous man, one who could be counted on to do the right thing, no matter what. So here is this righteous man, betrothed to a young woman, a child really by our standards, and he discovers she is with child. What’s a righteous man to do? He would be well within his rights to condemn her, walk away and let her face whatever punishment may come. Yet he decides to quietly divorce her, giving her, and the child a chance at life. Before he can act, however, an angel appears to him in a dream telling him not to worry, that the child his betrothed is carrying is the child of God, in so many words, the Messiah, and you will be entrusted with his care. I can’t imagine what Joseph’s initial reaction must have been. Today, we would probably seek out a psychiatrist, convinced we had gone round the bend altogether. If you told someone that this had happened, you would be seeing a psychiatrist, the one assigned to the asylum you would find yourself in. Thankfully for Joseph in his time the appearance of an angel was not a sign of mental illness, but a sign that God has something for you to do, something important. Joseph accepted the words of the angel, took Mary into his home, and reared the Messiah as his own son. He did not have to do this, he could have walked away. He could have not believed that an angel really appeared to him, or he could have simply refused the responsibility. But Joseph was a righteous man, he would do what God asked, despite the sacrifice. He had a choice, he chose God. As we approach the celebration of our salvation, the entrance of God in the person of a baby into our world, we have a choice to make. Will we choose the one who came and will come again, or do we walk away? Do we follow the example of Joseph? Can we be righteous?
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Dec. 19, 2010