Materials for Worship on the Fourth Sunday in Advent

Nerys writes: I wonder if you are ready for Christmas? Are there things that are still to be done? Is there anything that you are putting off until after Christmas – perhaps something that really needs to be done now? Most of us tend to put things off thinking,  mañana, tomorrow …  Sometimes it’s  because we are too busy, or we have other priorities, or perhaps we don’t really want to face whatever it is. In today’s Old Testament reading, Isaiah 7.10-16, King Ahaz did not want to face what was looming, and when God offered him a sign, he justified his reluctance by saying that he didn’t want to put God to the test. Little did he know just how important God’s sign would become, not just for himself but for the whole world …

When Joseph, on the other hand is given a choice to respond to the message of the angel or not, he doesn’t hesitate. Read Matthew 1.18-25 to remind yourself of the story.  Joseph doesn’t play a prominent  part in the Christmas story. There are no lines and little action, even in Matthew which tells the story from Joseph’s perspective. Mary gets to speak and sing, whilst Joseph is the silent partner. But his choices and his actions are a vital and significant part of God’s story.

In the reflection that follows, David Campton imagines what Joseph might have said.

I’m no dreamer. Not like my namesake – the son of our forefather, Jacob, and friend of Pharaoh. I’m a working man. I work with wood and nails, things you can touch and shape and hit with a hammer. And I did a lot of that when Mary first told me. 

I couldn’t believe it. How could she do that to me? Who was the father? All she would say was: “It was nothing to do with me. The baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit, ordained by God himself.” Well, I’ve heard some excuses in my time. Who do you think I am – a fool born yesterday!? 

But she seemed so genuine, so innocent. And, I thought, so naïve. Who has taken advantage of you? Who? I asked. But she named no-one. So, I planned to drop the whole thing quietly, leave it to her parents to ship her off to some relatives to have the baby. But I knew the news would get out. The shame would stick – to me as well as to her. And I took my frustrations out on the wood in my workshop. 

But then, I had that dream. I hadn’t been sleeping at all since Mary told me. It was my first decent night’s sleep, and I was annoyed to be roused – only to realise that I wasn’t awake, and what stood before me was more real, more solid, than anything in this world. An angel. A messenger from God, he claimed. 

And he confirmed Mary’s story. This child within her was not the result of a teenage fling, or someone taking advantage of a foolish girl, but conceived by the Holy Spirit. I was told he was to be called Jeshua – Jesus – which means ‘God Saves.’ A good name. 

Somehow this child growing within Mary is supposed to save us all from our sins, and fulfil the words of the prophet: born of a virgin, showing that God is with us – Emmanuel. Well, he’d better be with us, because it won’t be easy. Not everyone will believe the story. Tongues will wag and fingers will point. 

But I will do what I can. I’ll carve a cradle for this Son of God. I’ll try to teach him the word of his Father. And I’ll train him in my trade: to work with wood and nails. 

We are all part of God’s story. We all have a role to play. Our story can be shaped by God’s story if we choose.

We hear Mary’s ‘yes’ through her words but we see Joseph’s ‘yes’ through his choices and his actions. The angel encourages Joseph to take Mary as his wife, to stand alongside her in her vulnerable, marginalised position, to care for her and protect her.  The angel  also invites Joseph to name the child, to adopt Jesus  into his own family and into the story of God’s people, to give ‘ the One who Saves’ a place in the line that runs right back to Abraham. Joseph may not have words to say in God’s story  but his choices and his actions mean that he has a massive part to play.

We are all part of God’s story. We all have a role to play. Our story can be shaped by God’s story if we choose.

I wonder what you are choosing this Advent? In your waking, in your dreaming, how are you listening for and attending to the messages and the invitations that are waiting for you from God?

Take some time to ponder as you reflect on images of Joseph and read the prayer below.










‘A Prayer for Choosing’ by Jan Richardson

What we choose
changes us.

Who we love
transforms us.

How we create
remakes us.

Where we live
reshapes us.

So in all our choosing,
O God, make us wise;

in all our loving,
O Christ, make us bold;

in all our creating,
O Spirit, give us courage;

in all our living
may we become whole.











You may wish to finish your time of worship by praying for areas in the world, in the Church and in your life where choices need to be made and ask for God to guide the decision-making.