The Lord delights in his people.
The goodness of the Lord is praised.
Acts of the Apostles 13:16-17,22-25
God chose the people of Israel, and from them he raised up Jesus, the Savior for all people.
Matthew 1:1-25 (or the shorter form, Matthew 1:18-25)
After being visited by an angel in a dream, Joseph takes Mary as his wife.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today's liturgy offers the option to read a longer or shorter form of the Gospel. If we read the longer form, we hear Matthew recount the ancestry of Jesus. This genealogy sets Jesus' birth within the context of the history of Israel, highlighting two of Jesus' ancestors—Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people, and David, the most important king of Israel. Jesus' ancestral lineage reinforces a central theme of Matthew's Gospel: Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies made to the people of Israel.
The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from Joseph's perspective. During his betrothal to Mary, Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant. Betrothal in first-century Jewish culture was more than an engagement period; it was part of the marriage contract. A breach of this contract was considered adultery. If adultery was proved, the punishment might be death. Joseph had rights under Mosaic Law, but he chose to act discreetly in his plans to break the marriage contract so as to protect Mary. The way that Joseph and Mary faced these extraordinary circumstances tells us much about these holy people and their faith in God.
The message the angel gave to Joseph in a dream reveals many important theological details about the child Mary will bear and about the child's role in God's plan. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. His name will be Jesus, which in the Hebrew means “God saves.” He will be the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. He will be Emmanuel, “God with us.” This is the mystery we celebrate at Christmas, the Incarnation. God chose to become a human being in the person of Jesus.
Joseph did as the angel of the Lord directed. He took Mary to be his wife and accepted the child in her womb as his own. When Jesus was born, Joseph followed the directions of the angel and gave the child the name Jesus. We often recall Mary's cooperation in God's plan for our salvation. Today's Gospel reminds us of Joseph's important role, which was also crucial to God's plan for Jesus' birth.