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The Institute of Lutheran theology not only provides programs to train pastors and teachers, but it also provides educational and devotional resources for individuals and congregations. These resources are provided free of charge and made available through our web page. Please subscribe to and use any of these resources.

The Institute of Lutheran theology not only provides programs to train pastors and teachers, but it also provides educational and devotional resources for individuals and congregations. These resources are provided free of charge and made available through our web page. Please subscribe to and use any of these resources.

Fourth Sunday in Advent A

Fourth Sunday in Advent A

Matthew 1:18-25

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly” (Mt. 1:19).

The Word today gives us another reversal.  The Advent Old Testament readings from the book of Isaiah have been replete with them.  Last week’s gospel had another:  Jesus confronting the crowds with the reversal of their expectations.  Today, the Word confronts with a change of plans.  Joseph, a righteous man, wanted to have his cake and eat it too.  Out of his righteousness, he desired to be rid of a woman demonstrably unfaithful to him even before the consummation of their vows.  In his righteousness, he deluded himself into thinking that severing his betrothal to Mary would be a quiet affair.  Not possible.  Over the course of the subsequent months, the increasing obviousness of her pregnancy and the subsequent birth of a child would bring shame down upon her and her community.  The community would visit against her whatever consequences it felt appropriate to restore its honor.  It could go so far as to impose a death by stoning upon her.  Contrary to Joseph’s plans, there is divine intervention reversing Joseph’s intent to act upon his delusion.  The angel of the Lord delivered a contrary Word to him.  That Word told him he would not carry out his plans for a “quiet divorce.”  Rather, he would continue in his betrothal to Mary, living with the increasingly obvious shame of a woman unfaithful to the impending marriage or with the community obviously knowing that he himself could not restrain himself until marriage.  Like Hosea in his marriage to Gomer, Joseph, under the command from God, lived with the shame of unfaithfulness resting on his household.  So, too, with you.  On every occasion when the Word of God confronts you with your sinfulness, you are revealed as unfaithful… as having consorted with various idols… and so the Lord your God—as if he were your husband—must live with the unfaithfulness you visit upon his household.

Prayers from an unfaithful one who has no response except repentance and a promise to do better… a repentance and promise needfully repeated again and again…

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people even when they have been unfaithful.  As I am numbered among them, forgive the sinfulness of my idolatry, and restore me to a right spirit—your Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people, grant them and me continued confrontation with your faithfulness even as together, we flaunt our unfaithfulness.

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people, so use your Word of law and gospel upon me that my sinful, unfaithful self dies beneath its accusation so that my justification would also be the imposition of a new faithful and righteous life upon me.

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people, grant that I may live as a useful neighbor in the household you have established for me in this creation broken by sin.

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people.  Out of that faithfulness, you have turned me back to this creation you once called “good.”  So establish me within it that I, too, would be a useful agent in the work of establishing some order within its sin-caused chaos.

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people.  In that faithfulness, uphold the Institute of Lutheran Theology in its work of raising up preachers who will proclaim your faithfulness to a new generation of idolaters.

Heavenly Father, you have been a faithful husband to your people.  Continue to reassure me of your faithfulness as I live out the days of my baptism; and, as I fall into idolatry and unfaithfulness, bring me to that needful repentance and promise by restoring to me that right spirit—your Holy Spirit.

Into your hands, Heavenly Father, I commend all that is mine, even these my most fervent prayers, confident that you are faithful in the midst of my unfaithfulness.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen

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