Our readings for this Fourth Sunday of Advent are all about obedience to what God asks us to do. Our First Reading and Gospel present contrasting positions on this matter.
In the First Reading King Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign. He does this because he does not want to consider the possibility that it might have come from God. He was the King of Judah and had already made up his mind to form a powerful alliance with Assyria who were the ruling powers of that time. He wanted security for himself and his kingdom. If God was going to ask him something different, he did not want to hear about it. It was this fear that prevented from being open to the Word of God through the prophet Isaiah.
In the Gospel we hear about Joseph who does what the angel of the Lord had told him to. He takes Mary into his home even though taking on a wife with a child born seemingly out of wedlock in his culture was virtually impossible. Yet even though it was clear that Joseph was not the natural father of the child, Joseph made the child Jesus his own. In doing this he opened himself up to ridicule from his neighbours. But made himself vulnerable just the same. He did even though he held some fears but still shows himself open to God’s message. In doing this Joseph shows himself to be a righteous man. In contrast to Ahaz he bows to the divine will.
In both readings God sought to make himself known. In the first reading he was met with distrust. In the Gospel he was met with surrender to his will. God makes himself known to us all the time through the Word, Sacraments, the people we encounter and the events that take place in our lives. Are we attentive to the signs? It is when we recognise the signs and decide to do what the Lord is asking us to do that, like Joseph, we make the transition from fear to faith.