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Fourth Sunday of Advent

We are now very near to Christmas and the fourth candle is lit, which is the angel candle. Luke speaks of an annunciation by an angel to Mary, while Matthew describes one to Joseph through a dream. Matthew is anxious to show how God brought about salvation through the Jewish people, and begins his gospel with a genealogy of the ancestry of Jesus going back to Abraham. The theologian Raymond Browne stresses the importance of this in his A coming Christ for Advent, because it shows how God worked with ordinary human beings, through both their virtues and their failings, to achieve his plan. It was essential for Matthew to show how Jesus came from the House of David and he mentions him more than the other gospels do. His account therefore focuses on Joseph and his descent from David. He also mentions women, who played a crucial role in ensuring the continuation of the Judah’s lineage.

Virtuous women like Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel are not mentioned; instead, the evangelist singles out Tamar, who contrived to raise up a child for her dead husband through her father-in-law Judah and thus continue an unbroken line. The prostitute Rahab, who helped the Israelites capture Jericho, became the mother of Boaz. Ruth,the woman from Moab, through her kindness in going back with her mother-in-law Naomi to her own people in Bethlehem, encountered Boaz, relative of Naomi’s dead husband, whom she married. The  couple then became the great-grandparents of King David. He took Bathsheba, wife of Uriah, and arranged Uriah's death in battle. Yet it was Bathsheba’s son Solomon who became David’s heir. Most important of all, of course, was Mary, who said yes to God and gave birth to our Saviour.

Matthew makes clear that Joseph adopted Jesus, being specifically told that he must name the child Jesus. Naming him means that he recognised Jesus as his son.