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WELCOMING THE SAVIOUR

Read­ing Time: 2 minutes

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Introduction

Today is the last Sunday of Advent. Con­sequently, it is the last week before the Christ-mass cel­eb­ra­tions. Since Christ-mass con­cerns the birth of Jesus, the choice of this Sunday Gos­pel is appro­pri­ate. The read­er is presen­ted with the mys­tery of the con­cep­tion of Jesus, whose birth will be cel­eb­rated next week Sunday, that is, on the Christ­mas day.

Mary’s Presumed Betrayal

As stated above, accord­ing to the Hebrew Bible and in keep­ing to Jew­ish cul­ture, the Jew­ish weed­ing was pre­ceded by a peri­od of engage­ment called Erussìn (bond) or Qid­dushìn (Sanc­ti­fic­a­tion) in Hebrew. Dur­ing this peri­od of engage­ment, the groom tied to him­self the future bride, and thus, pro­hib­ited her from know­ing any oth­er man. After pay­ing the dowry, the bride returned to her par­ents’ house and was not allowed in any way to be with the fiancé until the day of the weed­ing (Hebrew: Nis­suìn). It was with­in this peri­od of engage­ment that Mary took in. That is, after the Erussìn or Qid­dushìn and before the Nis­suìn, Mary became preg­nant. This is why Mat­thew 1:18 says “when Mary had been espoused to Joseph, but before they lived togeth­er, she was found to be with child….” How man­age? In the Jew­ish tra­di­tion, this was a ser­i­ous offence pun­ish­able by law. The pun­ish­ment was pub­lic ston­ing. The same Pro­to­evan­geli­um cited above sus­tains that this incid­ent took place while Joseph was away for out­side work since he was a wood­work­er. At this point, we need to reflect on the expres­sion “but before they lived togeth­er.” What is the meaning?

Joseph’s hard Decision

Mary’s con­di­tion was actu­ally very embar­rass­ing espe­cially to Joseph who knows he was not respons­ible for the preg­nancy. Accord­ing to the Jew­ish cus­tom, Mary has com­mit­ted a ser­i­ous crime. Before the law, Mary was an adul­teress. Between Sanc­ti­fic­a­tion and the wed­ding prop­er, the betrothed spouses were not allowed to engage in sexu­al rela­tion­ship. Such in fact, was con­sidered immor­al before the law. Accord­ing to the stip­u­la­tions of the law, she should be brought out and stoned pub­licly (cf. Deut 22:23–24). How should Joseph handle such humi­li­at­ing and dis­tress­ing situ­ation? Due to his right­eous­ness, he was in dilemma on how to handle Mary. He was aware of the law and the grav­ity of Mary’s con­di­tion, but as Mat­thew noted, he was look­ing for a way to divorce (Greek: apoluō) her secretly to avoid expos­ing her to pub­lic dis­grace, and to pre­vent her from being stoned. Did Joseph’s plan work out?

Conclusion 

The entire psalm is built on the assur­ance that the Lord will nev­er for­sake his own people and in fact, the entire cre­ation. Even if par­ents should for­sake their child or chil­dren, Adonai will not for­sake His own chil­dren (cf. Ps 27:10). This same theo­lo­gic­al cer­tainty runs through the entire Scrip­ture includ­ing the Gospels.…

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