- Date: December 18, 2022
- Bible Reading: Matthew 1:18-25
- Free Resource: What’s in a Name (PK-2nd, NL)
- Unit Theme (November 27—December 18): Faith in God’s Promises
- The Point: God’s plans may surprise us.
We end the Advent season with Joseph, Mary’s almost-husband, as he waits with dread, anticipation, and finally, hope.
This reading marks the fourth and final Sunday of Advent, as well as the transition in the Narrative Lectionary from the Old Testament to the New Testament. This Advent, we have been waiting for justice with Habakkuk, not waiting to act with Esther, and waiting on the promise of the Servant with Isaiah. Now we move to the Gospel of Matthew, where we can sit with Joseph, the almost-husband of Mary.
Waiting with Dread
I’d like to assume that Joseph was happy to be betrothed to Mary; hopefully, he even loved her. But his happiness as he waited for his wedding day ground to a halt at unexpected news: Mary was pregnant. He must assume that she had sex with another man, as that is how pregnancies have happened from the beginning of time.
So now he waits with dread. The future that he imagined with Mary has been derailed. Now he can only wait until it officially ends. He is a compassionate man. He doesn’t want to see Mary hurt. But he feels betrayed and doesn’t want to cover for her and claim that the child is his. So, he tries to figure out how to end the betrothal with the least harm to Mary as possible.
Waiting with Anticipation
Everything changes when Joseph receives a very special dream. In a dream, an angel of the Lord appears to him to explain what’s going on. Mary, in fact, has not been unfaithful. On the contrary, she has been chosen by God to bear God’s own Son. That God’s own Son would be born of Mary is the first promise that the angel gives. And unlike many of God’s promises, this one has a definite timeline, measurable in months. Mary and Joseph both wait with anticipation for her pregnancy to be complete and for her son to be born.
Waiting with Hope
The second promise the angel gives is not that Jesus will be born; it is about why Jesus will be born. It’s all in the names.
- “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah” (v. 18): From the beginning, Jesus is named as the Messiah, the one whom God had promised to send.
- “You are to name him Jesus” (v. 21): The name Jesus is related to the Hebrew name Joshua, both with the meaning “to save or deliver.” This signifies that “he will save his people from their sins.”
- “And they shall name him Emmanuel” (v. 23 from Isaiah 7:14): The Gospel writer doesn’t waste any time on this one, knowing that his audience would not likely be familiar with the work. It means “God is with us.”
These names gave Joseph and Mary hope, and even now, give all of us the same. The one to be born, the child of the Holy Spirit, is the one promised by God to save the people and represent (be) God physically present in the world. This also has a bit of a definite timeline. The promise inherent in Jesus would be assumed to happen within Jesus’ lifetime.
Faith Formation Connection
We are all waiting for something. Some are waiting with dread for a diagnosis, a layoff, a death. Some are waiting with anticipation for a visit or maybe Christmas itself. And some are waiting with hope: the hope to start a family, the hope for a new start, or the hope for a clean bill of health.
In your faith formation setting, challenge your participants to list what future things they are fearing, anticipating, and hoping for. Use these lists in times of prayer, reflection, or discussion.
May God give you hope as you wait.
Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: September 11 to May 28), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free activity “What’s in a Name” from our Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd, NL) curriculum. This activity can be used intergenerationally or with most age groups individually.
2022-2023 Faith Formation Resources
Advent is nearly over, but you can still order Winter and Spring lessons of our Narrative Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary resources, or one of our Learning Together units! You can download the lessons as soon as your payment is processed.
At Spirit & Truth Publishing, we might just have exactly what you are looking for:
- Resource for the Revised Common Lectionary (intergenerational classroom)
- Resources for the Narrative Lectionary (products for all ages)
- Learning Together: Five-lesson topical units for VBS, Sunday school, children, and intergenerational classes.
- Cross+Generational Confirmation
- Worship and Liturgy Education
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