Fourth Sunday of Advent
MT 1:18-24
December 22, 2019

Our First Reading introduces a character named Ahaz into the Advent Season. If this passage was all that we know about him, we might walk away with the impression that he is a pretty solid character. Isaiah is encouraging him to ask God for a sign. Ahaz seems to be saying:

I really don’t want to bother God. I’ll figure it out. I can handle things.

But if you read what led up to this brief conversation, your impression of Ahaz might not be so positive. Moreover, by contrasting him with St. Joseph, who enters this Advent Season through the Gospel, his favorability rating falls even further.

Consider how Isaiah encouraged Ahaz to ask God for a sign to guide him. Ahaz immediately responds to Isaiah: I will not do that!

Had the Prophet asked: Why not? And had Ahaz been truthful, he might well have said something to the effect: Because I don’t want to be bothered by what God has to say…I want to do things my way. How different from Joseph.

The opening line of the Gospel passage deserves special attention: This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. Reading on, it becomes clear that a “righteous man” was a key element in God’s eternal plan to send the ultimate sign of the unconditional love the Creator has for us. A “righteous man” was essential to the Incarnation, and Joseph was up to the task. Open to what God was asking of him and equipped with the wisdom needed to interpret God’s signs, St. Joseph put aside his own desires, cares, and concerns, and eagerly replied: I WILL!

The birth of Jesus Christ came about because a young woman trusted in God’s signs, accepting God’s invitation to bring Christ into the world. And the birth of Jesus Christ came about because the man to whom she was betrothed did as well.

Over 2000 years have passed since this “righteous man” named Joseph agreed to protect, foster, and serve Jesus. And now, the responsibility rests with us disciples…believers…those who strive to be righteous.

There is clear and convincing evidence that the “Ahaz attitude” is alive and flourishing. We are surrounded by signs that Christmas has become a pagan holiday celebrated by extravagant spending and over-indulgence. But on Christmas Eve, the righteous will look up into the dark night and hear the message delivered to the shepherds of Bethlehem by the angels…for onto you a Savior has been born. And we must reply to this GOOD NEWS as St. Joseph did. This is how the reign of God comes about…righteous people say I WILL!