Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Advent, Joseph's Dream
Volume 7 No. 451 December 15, 2017
II. Lectionary Reflections: Joseph's Dream

Joseph: The Father of a MessiahJoseph: The Father of a Messiah
Gospel: Matthew 1:16-2:23; Luke 1:26-2:52

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
(Matthew 1:20–21)

What was the most difficult part about being Jesus' earthly father?

There were times when I felt very common and not at all up to the task. Occasionally the weight and seriousness of the responsibility would fall on me, and I felt completely inadequate. I was inadequate. Who is worthy to raise the Son of God? I asked God daily for strength and wisdom.

After Jesus was born and you had to flee to Egypt, were you afraid?

Initially, yes, I was very afraid. After the alarming vision, there was this urgency in me. I felt as though Herod's guards were on their way, and if I didn't move quickly, then … well, you know. But on our way to Egypt, I realized that God was directing the events here, not Herod or I. I said to myself, Wait a second. God knows the future. If something bad were going to happen, he would help us. I thought about the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, and if ever things started closing in around us to that degree, I knew we could be confident of a miracle.

How was your faith changed by that whole string of events surrounding the birth of Jesus?

It wasn't just my faith. This child upended my whole life. I was talking about this with Zechariah one time, about how we had our whole lives planned until God showed up. Everything about our lives changed. But what a joy!

You mentioned joy. Explain what you mean.

Most people, when they think of Jesus, think about his strong teachings or his miracles or maybe even his death. But when I think of him, my mind goes back to this time, right after he was born. He had just awakened, I was holding him and he was looking around. Very alert. And he looked up at me and with his little fingers grabbed my finger. They say babies that young don't smile, but he smiled, as if to say, "I'm glad to be here." You know, Mary witnessed his death, and Peter felt his forgiveness on the beach after the denial. Thomas touched the scars in his hands, and John even saw a vision of him coming back as King. But I held that baby before all that. And that's something I'll never forget.

Back to the Future

The course of Joseph's life was entirely redirected by God, and yet he reacted with grace and obedience. How difficult would it be for you to make massive life changes like Joseph? Why?

God entrusted the care of his Son Jesus to a man without much in the way of monetary resources. What does this show about God's view of wealth? Of parenting?

Joseph was a man of faith. What have you learned from Joseph's life that has strengthened your own faith?

Read Joseph's Story:

For more on Joseph, read Matthew 1:16-2:23; Luke 1:26-2:52.

Source: NIV Devotions for Men - January 05, 2017

Believe in the Dreams of the Person You Love

by The Very Rev. Samuel G. Candler

Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25

It was a few days before Christmas. A woman woke up one morning and told her husband, "I just dreamed that you gave me a pearl necklace for Christmas. What do you think this dream means?" "Oh," her husband replied, "you'll know the day after tomorrow."

The next morning, she turned to her husband again and said the same thing, "I just dreamed that you gave me a pearl necklace for Christmas. What do you think this dream means?" And her husband said, "You'll know tomorrow."

On the third morning, the woman woke up and smiled at her husband, "I just dreamed again that you gave me a pearl necklace for Christmas. What do you think this dream means?" And he smiled back, "You'll know tonight."

That evening, the man came home with a small package and presented it to his wife. She was delighted. She opened it gently. And when she did, she found-a book! And the book's title was "The Meaning of Dreams."

What have you been dreaming about lately?

Some of us are dreaming about wonderful possibilities. We're dreaming of pearl necklaces and sugar plum fairies and new bicycles. I hope all those dreams come true!

But as I consider my own dreams, I realize that I dream in two major categories. I have two kinds of dreams. Sometimes, my dreams are dreadful. I imagine painful relationships. I live out meetings and deadlines that I have missed. I am standing in a pulpit, for instance, with nothing to say. These are nights that I spend wrestling like my ancestor, the patriarch Jacob.

But on other occasions, my dreams are the most refreshing I can imagine. I have also dreamed about reconciliation. I have dreamed that enemies are at my table, and we are living convivially. I have dreamed of flying fancily through the air. I have dreamed of new life and hope. I have dreamed of lean years followed by wonderful years. These are nights that I dream like my ancestor, the patriarch Joseph.

A few years ago, Time magazine published an intriguing cover article. No, it was not another article about the birth of Jesus; I expect all sorts of articles like that this time of year. Those articles are intriguing, to be sure, but they generally cover material that has been discussed before: where was Jesus actually born, who were the wise men, and so forth.

No, the article that struck me was about sleep. For all that we know about the human body these days, scientists do not know the exact reason that we need sleep. We know why we need food, shelter, and clothing; but we do not know why we need sleep.

And what is the reason for dreams, those strange images that bounce along our brain waves? We wake suddenly, and reality itself seems like a different world.

Why do we need sleep?

I believe the answer is this: We need sleep because we need to dream.

Today's gospel lesson is about a dream. The Fourth Sunday of Advent is about a dream, The dream of Joseph. Not Mary's dream, but Joseph's dream. In fact, the story of the angel Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary appears in only one gospel, the gospel of Luke.

In two other gospels, Mark and John, there is no account whatsoever of the physical birth of Jesus. We have four gospels, and they differ dramatically in how they tell the story of the birth of Jesus. In Matthew's gospel, the angel appears not to Mary at all, but to Joseph.

And it is Matthew's gospel that we read this year (Matthew 1:18-25). It is Joseph we hear of today. Consider his point of view.

Joseph dreamed something wonderful. It was astounding. God would enter the world. God would be born to his wife, as crazy as that was to understand. Joseph had some serious trusting in God to do! But Joseph had to trust someone else, too. Joseph had to trust Mary.

I know Mary was his wife, and surely Joseph must have loved Mary. But, still, this took a lot of trust! And this is why Joseph's dream is so important. Joseph dreamed of the salvation of the world.

And for Joseph, the way of salvation meant trusting someone else. It may well be that true salvation comes through someone else.

That is the lesson for us, too. Like Joseph, sometimes, we are supposed to trust God and then get out of the way. Trust that God is working through our wife, and then get out of the way. Trust that God is working in our children, and then get out of the way.

I was asked a recurring question this past week. I am asked something like this all the time: Why doesn't God speak to us directly? Wouldn't it be great if an angel appeared again? Like the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary?

Imagine young Mary, minding her own business, suddenly being overcome with news of a great conception, a great presence of the divine. It's something to have an angel speak to you. Even folks who are not religious might turn their heads.

Wouldn't it be great to know that such a revelation might happen again? Here's my reply to that kind of question: Well, you know what? It did happen again.

The angel did appear to someone besides Mary. The story is recorded right in the Bible. The angel appeared not just to Mary. The angel did appear to someone else. The angel appeared to Joseph.

We too often forget about poor Joseph. Every year, we tend to focus on the story of Mary. But this year, it's Joseph.

Now, if the angel can appear to Mary, and then also appear to Joseph, there's a lesson in that. That means that the angel can appear to you and me, too. In the Bible, the annunciation does not occur only once, but twice-not just to a woman, but also to a man.

The Bible, then, carries an implicit message that God does appear over and over again, to various sorts of folks. Matthew and Luke both have it right, but they are different stories. God continues to come into the world, but we have to trust other sources!

What are you giving for Christmas this year? I do not mean what are you getting. We all want something wonderful, I am sure. But what are you giving for Christmas?

The greatest gift you can give this year is to believe in someone's dreams. The greatest gift you can give is to have faith in someone else; believe in their dreams. Believe in the dreams of the person you love. Believe in the dream of your husband. Believe in the dream of your wife. Believe in the dreams of your children. Believe in the dream of your hero, your leader, your friend. Believe in their dreams!

And sleep comfortably this season. I know some folks do not sleep well. Too much worry. Too much food and drink. Remember how the writer Rabelais joked. He said, "I never sleep comfortably except when I am at a sermon." The reason we sleep is to dream. The reason we sleep is to dream. The reason we have relationships is so that we will have someone who will believe our dreams.

God works through those relationships. God works through both Mary and Joseph. God needs both Luke's story of the annunciation and Matthew's story of Joseph's dream. They are miracle stories.

God works through a young and wonderful woman, and her husband believes in her. That miracle can occur again and again. Believe in the dreams of the person you love. Believe in dreams this Christmas, and Jesus will be born again. Believe in dreams this Christmas, and God will appear.


Let us pray.

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ at his coming may find in us a mansion prepared for himself. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

About The Author:

The Very Rev. Samuel G. Candler is Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, GA.

Source: Day 1 Copyright The Very Rev. Samuel G. Candler

Silent Night - Silent Joseph
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24

"Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife."
- Matthew 1:20

With all the noise and hype of Christmas, Jesus the Christ has a hard time being noticed. A baby, however, usually can attract some attention, even if overshadowed by Madison Avenue and Santa Claus. Even Mary having a baby in a stable will at least get an honorable mention. Additionally, the shepherds and the kings quaintly fit our desire for fantasy.

However, Joseph just doesn't rate. For one thing, he's quiet. In fact, we don't have even one word of Joseph recorded in Scriptures. He's described as "an upright man" (Mt 1:19). That's certainly not a newsworthy story. He just doesn't fit into a commercialized Christmas. That's just the person we need: someone to quiet us down and make us realize we've been chosen out of this world (Jn 15:19).

Therefore we too shouldn't fit so easily into the world's commercialized Christmas. We live in a culture which has everything but quiet peace and uncompromised commitment. Jesus wants to give us a "Joseph-Christmas" present. "For when peaceful stillness compassed everything and the night in its swift course was half spent, Your all-powerful Word from heaven's royal throne bounded" (Wis 18:14-15). Maybe if Christmas became more of a "silent night," it might become a more holy one.

Prayer: Lord, quiet my soul like a weaned child on its mother's lap (Ps 131:2).

Promise: "...the gospel concerning His Son, Who was descended from David according to the flesh but was made Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness, by His resurrection from the dead." - Rom 1:3-4

Praise: "O King of all the nations, the only Joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature You fashioned from the dust."

Source: One Bread, One Body

Joseph's dream
Gospel: Mt 1: 18-24

Readings: Is 7: 10-14, Rm 1: 1-7

This Sunday before the celebration of the Christmas season begins, offers us a very human insight into an important figure that played a significant role in the birth of Jesus and beyond - Joseph, the husband of Mary.

Joseph is silent throughout the Gospels so whatever he may have thought we can only speculate. Yet, we can probably assume that what he felt when the news of Mary's unexpected pregnancy was made known to him, how we don't know, his reaction surely was what any intended spouse would have felt - disappointment and confusion. Who was the man that Mary had relations with? Why would she have done such a thing as she was betrothed to him?

Betrothal in ancient times was the final step before marriage. The couple did not yet live together as husband and wife but the betrothal contract could only be broken through a legal contract. Whether the couple loved each other or not was less important that the financial arrangements between each of their families were worked out in an equitable manner. However, whether a projection of modern expectations or pious sentimentality, Joseph was presumed to have feelings for Mary and their upcoming wedding was something both were anticipating with joy.

Nonetheless, our Gospel this Sunday offers a description of Joseph that is admirable - that he was a "righteous man." Joseph was an upright Jew, faithful to the sacred law and lived by that law in good example. So we read of his reaction to Mary's pregnancy:". . . Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly . . ."

According to the law of their time, Mary was subject to public ridicule and shame or even worse and it was Joseph's responsibility to inform her father that his daughter was pregnant by some other man. Joseph, because of his obvious respect for Mary, intended to do his best to hush this up quickly so that whoever is the father of Mary's child may be free to come along and take Mary to be his wife.

In the midst of this human dilemma, God steps in. And the Gospel tells us of the Angel Gabriel's visit to Joseph in a dream. "Have no fear . . ." the angel assures Joseph. In other words, God asks a mighty thing of Joseph - to take this child which is not his own flesh and blood and the child's mother into his home to care for them and to unite with Mary as her husband. Mary has conceived in a mysterious way, by the Holy Spirit's intervention. God has a plan far beyond what Joseph had expected.

Our first reading from Isaiah the prophet speaks of the perfect King of Israel who would finally come. Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign from God but God is not stopped. The virgin will conceive and bear a son whose name would be "Emmanuel" - God with us. This foreshadowing of Mary's conception and the child she would bear is where Joseph is positioned to now step in as the earthly protector and provider of this Holy Family, as we call them. When you stop for a moment and reflect on Joseph's role here and all that Israel had hoped for over hundreds of years, it is tough to get one's mind around this whole mystery.

So, with Christmas right around the corner it may indeed beg us to look beyond the sweetness of Christmas. The lights, trees, cards, manger scenes, beautiful sacred music, cute songs like "Santa Baby" or the very weird "Grandma got run over by a reindeer" and good cheer are all a wonderful part of this time and season.

While the strain between secular and sacred challenges our Christian sensibility the real mystery is profound. Mary and Joseph were not pastel colored holy cards, stiff plaster statues, or bright stained glass images. They were flesh and blood human beings whose lives were profoundly affected by God's intervention in human history. It was and always will be all about Jesus. Mary and Joseph stand as examples of cooperation with God.

While God asks far less of us than he did of Joseph and Mary, he asks nonetheless. In our second reading from Romans, Paul speaks of himself as the "slave" of Christ Jesus. Paul knew that his entire life was to be "set apart for the gospel of God . . ."

How far am I willing to go when I sense that God is asking something of me? How will I know? In a dream - perhaps but maybe not. What or who might be the sign of God's presence in my life? What part of me still needs to embrace the gospel of God?

Joseph, courageous and faith filled righteous man of God, pray for us.

Pour forth, we beseech you O Lord,
your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son
was made known by the message of an Angel,

may by his Passion and Cross
be brought to the glory of his Resurrection,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Reflection On St. Joseph

by Gayle Somers

On this Sunday of Advent, our Gospel calls us to reflect on Joseph, not Mary or Jesus. Why?

Gospel: Mt 1:18-24

As our time of preparation and waiting in Advent draws to a close, we find ourselves listening to St. Matthew's account of how Joseph became an important part of the first Advent. In some ways, the example of Joseph is the perfect pivot point as move from anticipation to reality in the Incarnation, celebrated all through the liturgical season of Christmas. How?

St. Matthew tells us that "Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit." There is so much we would like to know about how this came about! Did Mary try to explain to Joseph the impossible story of the Annunciation? Or did she, instead, keep the explanation to herself and simply acknowledge to Joseph that she was "with child"? We don't know for sure. What we do know is that Mary's pregnancy presented a challenge to Joseph, her betrothed husband. In that day, betrothal was a binding legal relationship, like marriage, even before the couple lived together to consummate it. A betrothal could only be ended by death or divorce. Joseph was a "righteous man." He decided to "divorce her quietly" so that she would be spared public exposure. Why did Joseph believe he had to divorce Mary? One possibility is that although Joseph thought this mysterious pregnancy meant Mary had been unfaithful, he still loved her too much to cause her humiliation. Another possibility is that Joseph understood that the mysterious pregnancy of his devout betrothed (remember, even an archangel addressed her as "full of grace") made it highly unsuitable for him to marry her. Even if Mary had not explained the cause of her pregnancy at all, her devout life would have convinced Joseph that something very magnificent was underway in her. For that reason, he would not be able to take her into his home, out of simple reverence, but he must do all that he could to spare her any shame. This latter scenario fits the details we do have better, but, either way, what a dilemma!

Joseph was not left alone to work this out: "The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream." Now we see that as the Incarnation began with an angelic visit, it would now proceed with another one. The angel addresses Joseph as, "Son of David." At the Annunciation, the angel's greeting to Mary was full of prophetic meaning; this greeting, too, brings into focus the glorious promise of God that the Messiah would be of the house of David. Joseph stood in this line of kings, very distant by his own day. As the angel continues, it is clear that Joseph is meant to father the Child in Mary's womb: "Do not be afraid to take Mary into your home." Again, we aren't entirely sure why Joseph feared to continue with their betrothal. Either he suspected Mary and her story, or he so respected her that he thought she should be God's spouse alone and that he was not worthy to take her in marriage. The angel assures him there is no need for fear, because Joseph has a role to fulfill in God's ancient plan for man's salvation. We don't know precisely what caused Joseph's fear, but we know he had to resist it and welcome the Child and His Mother into his home, bestowing on Him the royal lineage of David. Joseph would be charged with naming the boy, a traditional privilege of fatherhood. His willingness to do this would help fulfill what God had said long ago through the prophet, Isaiah: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive a son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel" (emphasis added).

When Joseph awoke, was he thinking about this Scripture from Isaiah, which he had undoubtedly heard many times in his life? Did he think about how the prophecy described a virgin giving birth but "they" would name him? Did he start to understand that his obedience of faith would bring the "they" (and not just "she") to pass? Was there an awful lot he just didn't understand? Nevertheless, in spite of any misgivings he might have had, "he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him." By faith, he received the Child and His Mother and became part of their family.

Perhaps this is why it is Joseph we meet on the last Sunday in Advent. Aren't we, too, now asked to receive the Child and His Mother in a fresh and loving way? Aren't we, too, asked to give the obedience of faith to believe that no matter what our misgivings might be, or how they arise, we are meant to join that Family?

St. Joseph, pray for us.

Possible response: Heavenly Father, St. Joseph's willingness to do something that must have seemed quite difficult is exactly the kind of example I need nearly every hour in my life with You.

First Reading (Read Isa 7:10-14)

We turn now from Joseph's example of the obedience of faith to King Ahaz's example of the disobedience of lack of faith that took place about 700 B.C. In this episode, the very weak Ahaz, king of Judah, had been plotting to form an alliance with pagan nations to protect against military conquest. God told him not to do this—God never wanted His people to look for help from pagan nations. They needed to call upon Him alone. The Lord sent Isaiah to Ahaz with a command: "Ask for a sign from the Lord your God; let it be as deep as the nether world, or high as the sky." In other words, God told Ahaz to ask for such an otherworldly sign to prove God's instruction against alliances was the one to follow that, when granted, it would demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that He was trustworthy. Unfortunately, the crafty Ahaz didn't want to be convinced that God's plan was the right path for him; he liked his own plan. So, in false piety, he declines to ask for that kind of sign: "I will not tempt the Lord." We can just about see Isaiah rolling his eyes at this point: "Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?" Isaiah knew what was behind this coy sham.

Not to be thwarted by Ahaz, the Lord Himself gave a sign, and what a sign it was! We are still celebrating it: "The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel." This will be the sign that our salvation, our victory over our enemies (sin, death, the devil) will come through God alone. "Emmanuel" means "God is with us." This name is actually a description of the Incarnation. The name, Jesus, given to both Joseph and Mary to be the Name of God's Son, means "Savior." How appropriate! Ahaz resisted the obedience of faith to try to save himself and his people. Joseph and Mary gave God the obedience of faith and welcomed the only Savior men will ever know—God-with-us, Emmanuel.

O come, o come, Emmanuel.

Possible response: Heavenly Father, thank You for making and keeping this promise to show us that our help—our salvation—is in You alone.

Psalm (Read Ps 24:1-6)

This psalm helps us get ready to leave Advent and welcome Christmas. It sings of the glory of God's possession of "the earth and its fullness, the world and those who dwell in it." God and man were always meant to dwell together (remember the Garden of Eden), but disobedience that comes from lack of faith separated them: "Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord or who may stand in His holy place? One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean." This is our Jesus! Soon, He comes to show "the face of God" to those who seek Him, and that would be us. After our Advent preparation, we are ready to sing, "Let the Lord enter; He is king of glory."

Possible response: The psalm is, itself, a response to our other readings. Read it again prayerfully to make it your own.

Second Reading (Read Rom 1:1-7)

St. Paul, in writing to the Church in Rome, scoops together many of the themes we have seen in our other readings. He acknowledges that Jesus, Son of David, is the fulfillment of God's promises made so long ago. He knows that because of what Jesus has done for us, there is Good News, the Gospel, to be preached throughout the world. See how St. Paul's apostleship, a grace from God, commissioned him to call Jews and Gentiles alike (in other words, everyone) to the "obedience of faith." We, too, are "called to be holy," as were Mary and Joseph. Jesus comes to make that possible. He brings us "grace" and "peace."

Has Advent made us willing to offer to our God the obedience of faith with renewed vigor in this new liturgical year?

Possible response: Heavenly Father, I know the greatest and only gift I can give You is my faith. Help me live that faith better in the year ahead.

Source: Scripture Speaks


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