As we read in the passages in Matthew, Joseph is betrothed to Mary when he learns that she is pregnant. In an act of amazing generosity, he decides to divorce her quietly rather than subject her to the public shame and violence that accompanies women accused of adultery. He didn’t feel he could stay with her, but he didn’t want her left alone and vulnerable to vicious social forces. Now, we live in an era where a popular expression of protection and allegiance is “I got your back.” And, in a sense, we could say that Joseph has Mary’s back here, despite his plans to divorce her. The story has more to tell us, however, about the deficiency of that response.
What was wrong with Joseph’s gesture, as admirable it may have been on the surface, however, is that he couldn’t see Mary, himself, or the world as worthy of trust and agents of God’s prophecy. He failed to believe that Mary could be pregnant and innocent of adultery. He failed to see the possibility right in front of him of what God had promised. Though he may have thought that he was protecting Mary’s reputation and future life, he forgot to leave himself open to a world where miracles happen and where God’s word is fulfilled. He needed an angel to remind him of that world and our part in it. We don’t need people who will “watch our back” and protect us from the misjudgments and misdeeds of others. No, what we need are people who will help us to see what we have forgotten or failed to see because of a breach of faith. We need people who will help us to see our blindness to what is in front of us. We, like Joseph, need to be reminded of God’s promise to us, so we can proceed to make space for a miracle to happen. So, in this advent season, may we commit to watch each other’s “front,” and remind each other about God’s gift of love and promise of life to come.
Center for Peace and Justice Education
Advent comes from the Latin word, adventus – an arrival or a coming. In the context of the season, Advent means that the Lord is coming. Read more of the Advent introduction...
First Week of Advent
Second Week of Advent
Third Week of Advent
Fourth Week of Advent