A reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Cycle A
If you’re like me, or most people for that matter, you’ve got a lot to do three days before Christmas.
You want to enjoy Christmas – the way it’s meant to be enjoyed – with deep and abiding peace, love, and joy. So it makes good sense that you’d be down on yourself if some little thing caused you to FREAK OUT NOW and lose your last days of Advent cool.
That’s why we can’t but admire character of Joseph.
The way he kept a cool head in the midst of Chaos, what a mensch! Of course, you realize that your imagination is causing you to think that way, because when you take a cold hard look at it, the tale does not make any sense, unless you read between the lines a little. I’m suggesting that is just what the Gospel writers intended for us to do, since they tend to give us sparse information when it comes to Joseph.
The point St. Matthew wants us to take away from this Sunday’s Gospel reading is that we all need a little Divine Assistance, from time to time. Or maybe sometimes we need a lot. But that divine intervention does not just come out of the blue, and even if it did we’d have to be prepared for it.
I suppose someone could think that God’s angel just popped into his dream out of the blue, and Joseph naturally went along with it, but that’s not what we really think, is it?
It would be odd if it was what we thought. Deep down in side we’re thinking why didn’t Joseph react differently? He should have woken up and said, “Man! What a crazy dream! This situation with Mary’s got me too worked up. I need to just end it.”
For some reason, we put that thought aside and go along with the story. In order to do that our mind’s have to accept a simple truth: God and others first, then peace.
The only way the story makes sense is for to us to recognize that Joseph’s default attitude was “God first.” Otherwise, the story would have turned out differently. On realizing this, we intuitively apply this moral to ourselves: our story turns out differently when we put God first. It won’t make our crazy lives less crazy, but it will bring meaning, order, and peace to our lives.
Once that order is established, Joseph’s other priorities become clearer, he can focus on the good of others, and the fruit of this direction and order is the peace he desires.
This does not work so well the other way around. For Joseph, it’s not about maintaining his chill, above all else. It’s about doing the next right thing, for the right reason. To be sure, it would certainly bring anyone peace to know the answer to the following question.
How can I be sure about the right thing to do in my current situation?
Start by putting yourself in Joseph’s shoes – or putting him in your shoes if you prefer. Whether you’re traveling or staying at home these days, look to Joseph as a guide and imagine how he managed to pull off the seemingly impossible, with God’s help.
Suppose you’re traveling. You could be anxious over your family’s unknown seating arrangement on, say, Southwest Airlines. Or maybe the weather outside is frightful, and you’re planning a 13 hour, nonstop road-trip in an over-packed CRV, with loved ones whose use of free will far exceeds their ability to reason at this stage of their lives. And the dog too.
Think of Joseph, whose mode of transportation was an animal. God took care of them; He’ll take care of you and your family, and your little dog too!
Maybe, you’re staying at home. Then you’re hosting a party and you’ve overextended yourself, again. The presents aren’t wrapped, you’re nowhere near finished decorating, the house is a wreck, and you’re writing an Advent blog… then there’s the food prep. You’re swamped.
Think of Joseph, who hosted a horde of unexpected guests in a cave, while attending to his warn out wife and new born son, far from the comfort of his own home. It all worked out for him – it’ll work out for you and your party too!
None of this applies to you? I don’t want to suggest that you’ve got it made, because whatever your situation is, and however different, you can still be like Joseph and live the moment like he did, with God’s help.
Joseph, an ordinary man, can’t be all that different from you and me (even if God made him the Dad of Jesus). We do have some advantages Joseph did not have, though, like iTunes.
I found the perfect Advent music to keep me in Advent mode all season long — so I don’t have to get fed up with that annoying Chipmonk Song. Here is a sampling from “Advent at Ephesus” from the Benedictines of St.Mary. I kept it playing all season long and loved it. You can find this album on iTunes.
I would have liked to have shared their “Rorate” track, but “O Come Emanuel” is the only one I found on YouTube. Really, the whole album is spectacular, and it’s hard to find just Advent music — this is the real McCoy!