It is the Fourth Advent. The reading today is about Joseph and Mary. It tells us Joseph was a just man.
 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.  But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.  Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,  Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.  Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:  And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
The Catholic Lectionary actually leaves out the last verse. This is a the touching story of Joseph and Mary which is dear to our hearts.
Joseph was a just man!
This doesn’t surprise us, but what exactly does it mean? He had a woman who was already pregnant. So being a just man (verse 19) means to put her away privily and not to make her a public example!
What would have been the public example? Would it have been a stoning as in John 8? Some men had caught this woman in moicheia (King James: adultery). The Thayer’s Dictionary says about this word that it refers to those who a woman would draw away to commit idolatry. In other words, sex was not the offence, but idolatry was. Idolatry is an offence against the First Commandment. Ex. 20: 2 & 3.
The same applies to the Hebrew word na’aph (King James: adultery). Lev. 20: 10 prescribes the death penalty for a man and a woman who commit this offence. The chapter on adultery in Greetings from Paradise deals extensively with na’aph. It explains that this word cannot mean what we call adultery today. This word quite certainly refers to a form of idol worship. This idol worship might have involved sex but it certainly involved blood shed.
regards a woman who had the duty to bear an heir to her owner. If she was pregnant already before her owner received her, the men of the city should stone her to death. The chapter on the Original Sin in Greetings from Paradise explains this text in detail. The next verse deals with the case that a man lay with a woman owned by another man. King James translated married instead of owned. In this case both the men of the city shall put both, the man and the woman, to death at Moses time.
But Joseph at his time would not have been a just man, if he would have followed this.
The Holy Ghost
But the just man Joseph did not even put her away privily. An Angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him that that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. Luke 1: 49 describes how this happened. ‘For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.’
But didn’t it say in Isa. 7: 14 a virgin shall conceive? Not really. The word for virgin is almah in this verse. The High Song uses the same word for those who love a certain man, most likely Solomon. The usual Hebrew word for virgin is bethulah. However, even that word probably has a different meaning.
I also doubt that this is an announcement of the Messiah. Verse 15 says that he shall eat butter and honey. This will enable him to refuse evil and to do good. However, verse 16 informs us of another event before this child shall have learned this. The land shall lose both her kings. And so it goes on, all through chapters 7 and 8 doom and gloom and ruin for Judah and Israel. So there is no promise of salvation in Isaiah! Consequently this text is not about Jesus!
To Know a Woman
The last verse says that Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son. Many think that to know a woman means sex. But the chapter on the Original Sin in Greetings from Paradise explains it differently. To know a woman means to put a head dress on her. Further it meant to castrate a couple of men. Those men then had to watch that woman to make sure nobody else would make her pregnant.
This fits well into the above story. All it meant that Joseph knew her not means that Jesus was not going to inherit the carpentry business. That would go to a son that had come forth from Joseph’s own loins. But as a just man, he would bring up the child of his woman.
So, have some food for thought for the Season of Love. Don’t forget, if you’re struggling for a present, here is a good suggestion: Greetings from Paradise.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding!