Joseph, Do Not Be Afraid

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. 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. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.
[Matthew 1:18-24]
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Prepare the Way!

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said,

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’”

as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
[John 1:19-28]
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I Surely Rejoice in the Lord

On the third Sunday of Advent, we light the candle for joy. Listen for the Word of God:

The Lord God’s Spirit is upon me,

    because the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim release for captives
    and liberation for prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and a day of vindication for our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for Zion’s mourners—
to give them a crown in place of ashes,
the oil of joy in place of mourning,
and a mantle of praise
    instead of a spirit of discouragement.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    planted by the Lord to glorify Himself.

They will rebuild ancient ruins
    and restore formerly deserted places;
they will renew ruined cities,
    places deserted in generation past.
Foreigners will stay and shepherd your sheep;
    and strangers will be your farmers and vine dressers.
You will be called priests of the Lord,
   “Ministers of our God,” they will say about you.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and fatten yourself on their riches.

Instead of shame,
    their portion shall be double,
and instead of disgrace
    they will rejoice over their share.
And they shall possess a  double portion in their land,
    and everlasting joy will be theirs.

I surely rejoice in the Lord;   
For as the earth puts out its growth
    and as a garden grows its seeds,
The Lord God will grow righteousness

    and praise before all nations.
[Isaiah 61, adapted]

Leap for Joy

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.

And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
[Luke 1:39-45]
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Let It Be

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
[Luke 1:26-38]
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Comfort My People

On the second Sunday of Advent, we light the candle for peace. Listen for the Word of God:

Comfort, O comfort my people,

    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that she has served her term,
    that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

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