- Fourth Sunday of Advent
Matthew 1: 18 – 25
Joseph is an odd character in the infancy narratives. When our Christmas celebrations are focused on the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary and the birth of God’s son, it is a difficult task to “fit” Joseph into our advent spirituality and Christmas pageant. As a result, we fail to find any theological significance for the story of a surrogate father in the divine drama of the incarnation of the saviour of the world. This advent season invites and challenges us to revisit the Joseph story and unearth the “gospel” hidden in the story of this silenced and ignored man. Let us try to listen to the story of Joseph and recover and reclaim that “gospel.”
The Bible testifies that Joseph was a righteous man. The few episodes where we meet Joseph in the gospels explain why he was considered a righteous man. Joseph belonged to an extremely patriarchal and moralistic society. According to the social customs and religious morality of his times, getting pregnant before marriage was not only a punishable immoral activity but also an insult to the honour of the man. The angelic annunciation would have shattered the dreams of any man whose understanding of masculinity was founded on male privilege, power, and domination. But the encounter with the angel enabled Joseph to realize the impact of toxic masculinity in his life and he decided to redeem and humanize his masculinity. His conscious efforts to redeem his masculinity made Joseph a righteous person.
Redeemed masculinity enabled Joseph to love and accept Mary and Jesus as his family. He stood with them in all their experiences of rejection, vulnerability, and exile. Having been liberated from the “macho types” of “real men,” Joseph faded himself into the margins and thereby transformed their family into a fellowship of equals and friends. Joseph failed as a “man,” and thus, he redeemed and humanized his masculinity. Perhaps, it is the redeemed masculinity of Joseph that inspired Jesus to call God, our father.
In this advent season, let us reflect upon our male privilege and examine how toxic masculinity continues to dehumanize us and those around us. Let us discern the annunciations of our times that proclaim the resolve of women to destabilize our patriarchal systems and traditions and rededicate ourselves to redeem and humanize our masculinity.
-George Zachariah, Trinity Methodist Theological College, Auckland, New Zealand
- Let us pray for the victims of toxic masculinity and patriarchy.
- Let us pray for the angelic annunciations happening in our midst, witnessing the attempts to contest toxic masculinity and patriarchy.
- Let us pray for boys and men for discernment and courage so that they may be able to redeem and humanize their masculinity.