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On the 14th anniversary of my priesthood ordination, we encounter the birth-story of Jesus, Son of God conceived through the Holy Spirit of David’s royal heritage. This gospel periscope is a continuation of the genealogy of Jesus. Notice that Matthew’s gospel is symbolized as the Son of Man because of his emphasis in the Emmanuel (God with us) which frames the entire gospel. At the center of the story is the angel’s announcement to Joseph of Jesus’ birth, name and identity. In other words, it’s called Joseph’s annunciation along with his amazing response.

The circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus is intriguing, if not, bewildering. In the Gospel, Matthew keeps us close to the ground and provides a preview of the intense drama of Christmas. After hearing much from John the Baptist, Joseph takes the center stage. Many of us don't realize that behind the well- decorated nativity scene lies a very troubling story. Accordingly, "Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit (Mt. 1: 18)”. In the ancient Jewish marriage custom, betrothal is the next stage after engagement. If all goes well, the relationship is taken to the next level which meant, they have already signed the marriage license now officially recognized as husband and wife but not yet allowed to live together and have sexual relations. They have to wait for a year before "the coming together" the final stage. By the way, in the ancient of days, pairing is done either by parents or matchmaker. Nowadays, it's carried out almost completely different except maybe for a few religious families. Pre-marital sex was inconceivable under this ancient custom. If a problem comes up during the betrothal period, the couple can't simply revoke, take the ring back and cancel wedding preparations, they have to call a divorce. Betrothal took a year of wait. It was within this timeframe that Mary was found pregnant which put Joseph and the future of the relationship in an impossible and serious dilemma. Since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly... (Mt. 1: 19).” This decision has been described as reverential fear. Although he was perplexed, he knew of the supernatural origins of Mary’s circumstances. He was troubled but deeply awed. Mary might have already told Joseph of the angel Gabriel’s annunciation and graciously accepted the offer to be the mother of the Messiah. Joseph and Mary are saints and mystics. Now, the extraordinary happened, “Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Mt. 20-21).”    

Joseph and Mary are prayerful and holy people, aware of the Angel’s appearance in a dream as mode of divine communication. It defies any sort of explanation. Something wonderful happened that changed the normal course of human history. The angel said, "I know this was not what you thought would happen but everything eventually will fall into place. Despite placed in an obviously awkward situation, he beckoned to follow. "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us'. When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home (Mt. 1:22-24).” 

Either through a dream, a text message, an email or a word from a familiar stranger, every encounter with God is life-changing. It alters our lives even if we don't know exactly where God would take us. In the midst of all the hype, Holy Mother Church invites us to behold Joseph as the model for Christian living. He was the type who wrestled with the complexities of life, remained docile, ever open to listen to God's word and went beyond what the law required. What would you do if you run into a similar scenario? What would you do if you find yourself at a point of no return? Would you follow what the law demands or take the road less traveled uttered by the voice of an angel? Joseph did, would you? As we come into the final days of our Christmas preparation, the "Emmanuel, God is with us" may trouble us and brings us into a halt but also, invites and calls us to do what Joseph and Mary did, that is, obeyed and trusted God, unlike Ahaz who refused divine invitation in favor of his own will. Amen.