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December 22, 2019: Fourth Sunday of Advent

Reading: Matthew 1:18-24

(taken from “The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language” by Eugene H. Peterson)

“The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: ‘Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is spirit conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus – ‘God saves’ – because he will save his people from their sins. This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:

Watch for this – a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
they will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for ‘God is with us’).

Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary.”


I am getting more comfortable asking questions of scriptural text.  I also find myself poking at the author and the editors.  I want to know a lot more about Joseph. What was his family like? How did he become “noble”? How did he humbly accept what had to have felt like a “bait and switch” deal at the time? Was he ever afraid? Did he have friends in whom to confide this difficult situation? Are there other texts that were edited out of this “version” of the bible?  What did they say?  Why were they set aside? Will I ever learn about the birth of Jesus in Joseph’s voice?


The Advent and Christmas seasons of our lives contain familiar pathways of expectation, preparation and celebration. It is easy to seek what we are “already, always knowing” about our stories in these seasons. In the coming week, allow some opening to happen in your awareness of what happens in the life of at least one other person or family during Advent and Christmas. Seek to understand the story in a new way this week.

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Alice Shelton

Providence Associate Alice Shelton lives in Indianapolis with her husband John. She is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and enjoys her work as director of business services at Marian University.

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