uring Advent we look for the coming of Christ in two directions. We look ahead, toward His coming in the future, at the end of time. This coming is emphasized more at the beginning of Advent. But we also look back, remembering His coming in the past, at the Incarnation. Here at the end of Advent, as we approach the great Christmas feast, it is this coming of Christ in history that receives the greater focus.
It is easy for us to take the great mystery of the Incarnation for granted. We forget how radical a thing it truly is, the Creator entering into creation, because it happened in such a humble way. Our God did not burst forth into the world in a great flaming chariot. He came as a baby, born of a woman, born in a manger; an event heralded by angels but noticed only by a few shepherds.
Our God chose a mother, Mary, who bore Him in her womb and nursed Him at her breast. She assented to be the Mother of God after being visited by the angel Gabriel at the annunciation. She, a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, gave her
, her “yes,” to do God’s will and bear His Son. “Let it be done unto me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).
But what of Joseph? What must this have seemed like to him? He was a just man, as described in our gospel reading, concerned with doing what is right. He is betrothed to Mary, but has not yet taken her into his home. He finds Mary pregnant. He must have assumed that she had been with another. He must also have known this was not at all something Mary would do. He must have struggled deeply with this seeming contradiction. He must have brought the matter to prayer.
The gospel tells us that whatever else, Joseph did not desire to bring shame to Mary, and so resolved to divorce her quietly, without bringing her before the court. But before this can happen, Joseph has a dream....