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Matthew 1: 18-24 – 18th December Weekday | 4th Sunday Advent Year A (Audio Bible, Spoken Word)

18 ¶ Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife.

According to Jewish law, couples became engaged around one year prior to marriage, and this engagement was most solemn and binding – an act of divorce would be needed to break the relationship. It is during this period that Mary is found to be with child of the Holy Ghost. She has done nothing wrong, she is a virgin, Christ’s conception is miraculous, but on the surface of things this was a terrible state of affairs, for Mary and Joseph also.

Joseph is a just man. He is, then, a man who follows God and the Law, keeping the commandments. He now proves himself better than merely just. While justice would have demanded Mary be stoned to death, Joseph decides that he will put her away secretly, to shield her from punishment and public ignominy.

Now the angel visits Joseph to tell him the truth, that Mary is with child, with a son who will be called Jesus, meaning saviour, that the 700 year old prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled. And Joseph believes and obeys just as Mary has done. Joseph, through his legal paternity, not only enables Jesus to be counted a son of David; he proves himself a worthy man, most fit to be Jesus’ earthly father, to shield the boy and his mother through the trials of Jesus’ infancy.

‘For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5: 20)