Fourth Sunday of Advent: Cycle A

December 18, 2022.

Love: Saying Yes Together 

We know Saint Joseph as a good and just Man.  Saint Matthew calls him a righteous man. Joseph was an ordinary man – the quintessential – original Average Joe.   An ordinary man with extraordinary love. By no means perfect.  Human in every way.  But love allows him to do what God asks him to do.  To say Yes not only to God’s plan for him, but to help Mary fulfill her Yes to God’s plan for her.   Joseph teaches us to say yes.    

During this time of year, Saint Joseph is portrayed in art, on Christmas cards, and as a figurine in nativity sets and manger scenes.   

There three main ways he is picture or positioned: 

  • Leading Mary to Bethlehem – holding the donkey’s rein.  
  • Holding a Staff at the Manger. 
  • Holding a Lantern at the Manger. 

All of these images show Joseph doing something.   

We know that love requires action.  That yes requires action.  Not merely to say it, but to do it. Not only to walk the walk but to talk the talk.    

Those Christmas images of Saint Joseph Models us that for us.   

That first image of Saint Joseph making his way to Bethlehem with Mary reminds us of the many journeys that Joe made in his life.     

This sense of journey is important.   Because a journey is not just a once and done situation.  A journey is not a moment.  A journey is process.  A journey takes time.   A journey takes work.   A journey takes a commitment. 

The distance to Nazareth to Bethlehem is just about 69 miles.  Scholars have calculated that it would have taken Mary and Joseph at least 4 days most likely a week or more to make the trip.  It wouldn’t have been easy terrain to cross, especially with a baby on the way.     

Joseph was committed.  He didn’t stop, run away, or turn back.  He kept on going. 

Our yes – yes to God and to each other is not just a once and done situation.  A journey is not a moment.  A journey is process.  A journey takes time.   A journey takes work.    

We don’t make the journey alone.  We walk with each other.   Just like Joseph helped Mary, we help each other get over the hills, up from the valleys, and through the deserts and storms we need to pass.    

That second image shows us Joseph leaning on his walking stick.   That walking stick gave Joseph strength.   It gave him support, steadied him, pulled him forward.  He could lean on it.  

Difference between a cane and walking stick.   

Faith is a walking stick for us.   He supports us, pulls us forward, holds us up – lifts us up.   It’s something we lean on.  It helps us to look ahead.   

Faith calls us to be a walking stick that’s supports, pulls forward, holds up, lifts up each other.  To help others and supports others in their saying yes to God.  

Finally, we see Joseph holding a lantern – holding light.   And he is holding the light usually above the crib – so that they could see Jesus.   

A light is a sign of hope.   Light is a sign of Jesus himself – the light of the world.  That’s why we decorate with lights at Christmas.  

It has been said that it is better to light one candle that to curse the darkness.    

Our world can be dark sometimes, and people may have trouble finding the light of Jesus.   So like Saint Joseph, we need to be the light that helps show others where Jesus is … that he is with us. 

As we make our way with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, may we follow Joseph’s example.  May we kee p faithful to the journey and help each other along it.  May we lean on our faith – and mau it hold up look to look ahead.  And may we use the light of Christ shining in us to help other find Jesus present with them.  

Father Neil Sullivan