For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son…
–John 3:16 KJV
The word for the fourth and final week of Advent is “love,” and it is associated with Joseph. When God’s angel told him in a dream to not be afraid to marry Mary, Joseph loved his fiancee enough to make her his wife, in spite of the raised eyebrows and innuendo that would be directed his way because of her illegitimate pregnancy. He then loved as his own the son Mary bore, though the boy was neither flesh of his flesh nor bone of his bone.
As we wait, not passively, but actively, for Christmas and Christ’s coming, we have the opportunity, like Joseph, to see one another as the God-bearers we are, and to support and love one another as we attempt to bring to birth the new life that God has planted within us.
Henri Nouwen sees this loving support not just in Joseph and Mary’s relationship but also in the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary (Luke 1:39-45):
These two women created space for each other to wait. They affirmed for each other that something was happening that was worth waiting for. I think that is the model of the Christian community. It is a community of support, celebration, and affirmation in which we can lift up what has already begun in us. The visit of Elizabeth and Mary is one of the Bible’s most beautiful expressions of what it means to form community, to be together, gathered around a promise, affirming that something is really happening.
Mary and Elizabeth’s mutual support points beyond itself, giving us a picture of what Christian community looks like.
In a similar way, Joseph’s love for Mary and for Jesus, with its attendant self-sacrifice, points beyond itself, giving us a glimpse of God’s great outpouring of himself in love for all of us, love that is seen so clearly in the Incarnation, the coming of the God who created the cosmos to live among us as one of us.
From Kimberlee Conway Ireton, The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year (InterVarsity Press, 2008), p 21-23.
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