Saturday, December 18, 2021
There are three reversals in today’s Gospel reading, moments when the story is moving in one direction and then changes course. Each of these reversals is introduced with the small word ‘but’, which signals an upending of expectations.
Mary is pregnant but she is not married; Joseph decides to dismiss Mary quietly but is persuaded otherwise by an angel; Joseph takes Mary to live with him as his wife but the marriage is not consummated until after Jesus’ birth.
The second ‘but’ is the hinge point of the story. Joseph is described as a “righteous man” which means he is obedient to the law. Joseph’s decision to dismiss Mary quietly shows not only his obedience but his compassion. Until this point, the story is on a trajectory which can only end in heartbreak, shame, and a broken relationship.
Then Joseph is visited by an angel in a dream. This cannot be the first time Joseph has listened to God, otherwise he would not be described as righteous, and it seems as if God is listening to Joseph. God does not act until Joseph has reached a decision; God waits and then intervenes to show Joseph another way forward, a way which upends all of Joseph’s expectations.
God’s way restores to Joseph all he thought he had lost and invites Joseph to participate in God’s larger, unfolding plan for all creation – the advent of a Saviour who will truly be ‘God with us’.
Sr. Wendy Grace Greyling, SSJD