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Characters of Advent - Joseph

Thursday, December 17, 2009
It is not surprising that the Advent season brings Joseph to the fore. The events surrounding the conception and birth of Jesus are the only passages in the Gospels when he is mentioned. They provide us with a brief snapshot of the man who is otherwise silent. And yet those few verses give us something quite special. Joseph has a crucial role to play. He is an example to us of goodness, a man who accepts his vocation to be the foster father of Jesus. He cares for Mary during her pregnancy, and brings her to a place of safety to give birth. He is also a model of obedience to God's word, shown so clearly when he leads Mary and Jesus to safety in Egypt, away from Herod, who wanted Jesus killed. He then listens to the word of the Lord, which urges the Holy Family's return, after the death of Herod.

We should not doubt the significance of Joseph in Jesus' upbringing, even if we do not have much any information about it in the Gospels. The thirty hidden years were Jesus' time of preparation for his public ministry, a time which would have been shaped by sitting at the feet of the carpenter, listening to him and learning from him in that same spirit of obedience which Joseph himself showed when God's word came to him through the message of an angel. Joseph attended to God's word when the message of the angel came, and now tends to the Word himself, caring for him and nurturing him so that Jesus will be able to do the will of the Father when his time to proclaim the Good News has come.

Joseph is a great Advent character. He is a model to us of humble obedience, an obedience that comes through attending to the Word of God. Advent is a time when we too are called to attend to the word, so that when Christmas comes, we will be ready for him to be born anew in us. And Joseph is also a reminder that that spirit of loving attention is not just for Advent, or even for Christmas, but is something to cultivate all year round.

Robert Gay OP


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