“When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.'” (Matthew 1:13-19)
Every fourth Sunday of Advent we prepare for the coming of Christ by asking God to purify our conscience so that Christ might find in us a mansion prepared for himself. I find it somewhat ironic that in this year when we are spending time with the gospel of Matthew this prayer is tied to the story of Joseph’s decision to abandon Mary.
Pregnancy puts women in vulnerable positions. Physically, emotionally, economically, socially, pregnant women are exposed to the fears and expectations of others, while often at the same time they are the objects of hypocrisy and control. Mary is not the only pregnant woman whose status and future depends on men doing the right thing…ask any person in Texas who is unexpectedly with child today.
The collect for the fourth Sunday is right to direct our petitions to God to purify our consciences, our moral sense. God awakens Joseph’s conscience through his dream. Fear does not need to drive his decision making; he can risk standing with Mary.
Pregnant women in Texas today are vulnerable in this climate where healthcare is not accessible, Medicaid has not been expanded, where maternal death rates are some of the highest in the nation, and needed abortions are unavailable. Purify our conscience, O Lord, and come among us.
Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector