4th Sunday of Advent Year A, Matthew 1:18-25.

Many of us are pretty familiar with the story of the Holy Family by now. The story of angelic pronouncements, decisions to be made, and a new family formed. One character in this familial tale that sometimes gets glossed over is that of Joseph.

We know about how righteous Joseph was, that he married Mary anyway, and that he was a carpenter. But the most important part of the story is this.

1:21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus

Joseph names the infant Messiah Jesus. This might seem strange to us, but under the law, Joseph naming Jesus meant he claimed him. He was legally his child. Joseph was claiming Jesus as his own. This is huge.

He didn’t have to do this. He could have gone on with his plan to let Mary go quietly, and his reputation would have stayed in tact. But people would talk, and I’m sure they talked plenty. They would guess that this child wasn’t really his, but he claimed him anyway.

What a message of grace and love from such an overlooked character! To take a child and claim him as his own. Sounds a lot like what happens to us in baptism. God names us and claims us as God’s own. We can learn a lot from Joseph, the father of Christ.

Shalom.