The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself, coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.”
“No” Ahaz answered. “I will not put the Lord to the test.”
Then Isaiah said: “Listen now, House of David: are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men without trying the patience of my God, too? The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign. It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel, a name which means: God-is-with-us.”
From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus who has been called to be an apostle, and specially chosen to preach the Good News that God promised long ago through his prophets in the scriptures. This news is about the Son of God who, according to the human nature he took was a descendant of David: it is about Jesus Christ our Lord who, in the order of the spirit, the spirit of holiness that was in him, was proclaimed Son of God in all his power through his resurrection from the dead. Through him we received grace and our apostolic mission to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name.
You are one of these nations, and by his call belong to Jesus Christ. To you all, then, who are God’s beloved in Rome, called to be saints, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send grace and peace.
This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’
Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’.
When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.
The Gospel of the Lord. R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ
In at the deep end with Mary and Joseph
by Moira Billinge
When a newly born baby is held in the arms of its parents, not only do they experience a profound and unconditional love for the infant, but also an overwhelmingly strong sense of responsibility for this tiny new life which is so utterly dependent on them.
I often think that, though an undoubtedly pleasing image, the romanticised depiction of Our Lady and Saint Joseph kneeling in blissful adoration at the side of the manger containing the infant Jesus is the complete opposite of how it actually was. To give birth in a stable in Bethlehem would have been onerous enough, but the best imagination in the world would not be able to appreciate fully the enormity of holding the child which the Angel Gabriel had revealed would be no less than the Son of God.
Nor would St Joseph have been in the calmest frame of mind having been inadvertently landed with the responsibility of caring for them both. The situation in which he found himself, as the foster father of Jesus, was not one he would have previously envisaged when he was a young and carefree carpenter. Nothing, except their trust in God, could have even remotely prepared Joseph and Mary for the enormity of the task which they had accepted, in faith. The birth of Jesus in a stable must have been one of the biggest clues that there were no perks to be had in this new role.
Our Lady would have been totally exhausted by the time she gave birth, and as deeply concerned for her baby's welfare as any mother. The Christmas carol which states "the little Lord Jesus, no crying he made" was probably very far from the truth; he would have cried as much as any other new-born. Although she was sinless, this did not protect Our Lady from sleeplessness or the frazzled patience caused by all the usual trials of motherhood.
Being the Mother of God conferred no special insights into what to do next for her child when he would not settle. Knowing her luck, if cattle surrounded the Holy Family in the stable, then the moment Mary got Jesus off to sleep, one of the animals would have woken him. Nothing was ever destined to be easy for her and even the visit of the Magi might have been awkward and inconvenient. Picture the scene: three monarchs, and possibly their entourage, paying homage to a squawking child that needed feeding and changing while a confused, bemused, tired Mary and Joseph probably tried to be polite and look interested in the gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Even if they appreciated the symbolism, they would perhaps have preferred to be left in peace to catch up on their sleep – and maybe even secretly hoped for cloud cover over the star that the three kings had followed to prevent further unexpected guests!
Our Lady, by agreeing to become the Mother of God, would later confront the ultimate anguish of watching her innocent son suffer so grievously on our behalf – and I firmly believe her painful memories of his torment would have stayed with her to the very end of her earthly tenure. Just as she would forever remember his birth, so she would remember his death and all that led up to it. On Christmas Day, and every day, we can truly say: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
This article is taken from the Liverpool Archdiocese website