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Bible Study Guide for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 18, 2022

December 12, 2022
  • Isaiah 7:10-16
  • Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
  • Romans 1:1-7
  • Matthew 1:18-25

Today’s gospel is the only passage of the Bible that focuses on Joseph. In other years, the Fourth Sunday of Advent brings us dramatic stories about Mary, as the Angel Gabriel appears to tell her that she will bear a child and she visits her older cousin Elizabeth, who is also miraculously pregnant, and joyfully sings the Magnificat. These are well known stories and there are countless works of art across the centuries depicting them. This year instead we hear the story from Joseph’s perspective and it is probably not as familiar. Joseph is a quiet figure, who never says a word in any of the four Gospels and disappears before Jesus’s Baptism and adult ministry.

At the beginning of this passage, Joseph has found himself engaged to a young woman who turns up pregnant. She tells him some story about how she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit but of course that is preposterous. And then an angel appears to him in a dream. When the angel appeared to Mary there was no mistaking that something extraordinary was happening, but dreams are messy. Maybe it was just a dream. Maybe it was wishful thinking. Sensible people know where babies come from and virgins do not get pregnant. People in the first century would have understood this as well as we do now. Dream or no dream, Joseph could have continued with his original plan to divorce Mary quietly. He would still be protecting her from the worst consequences. This would be all any reasonable person could expect.

But Joseph didn’t do that. He wasn’t sensible. He listened to the voice of God coming through this dream and married his pregnant fiancée, probably becoming the neighborhood laughingstock for the rest of his days. He took care of his wife and her son for the rest of his life. His story isn’t showy or dramatic, but in his quiet faithfulness he protected and cared for God incarnate.

– Kristen Filipic


Our collect today asks God to “Purify our conscience … by your daily visitation.” Joseph was used to listening to God and so he was able to recognize his dream as
the voice of God. How can we learn to listen to God?

Have you or someone you know felt called to do something that didn’t seem to make sense? What ended up happening?

Joseph stays in the background of the nativity stories while the spotlight often focuses on Mary. When have you observed quiet faithfulness like Joseph’s?


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