4th Sunday of Advent, Is 7:10-14, Rm 1:1-7, Mt 1:18-24 “A” 12/22/2013
I Introduction “Can anything good come from Nazareth?’ This was the nagging question thrown at us “unbelievers” who couldn’t imagine a “home-towner” born to lowly parents, a carpenter and a young Jewish girl, could be trusted to bring change to the world and lead us to God’s Kingdom. “Incredibly Preposterous!” would have been a justifiable reaction.
It was the same question posed by Nathaniel to Philip when he talked about Jesus as “the One about what Moses (and also the prophets) wrote in the law.” (Jn 1:45-46) Philip after realizing Nathaniel’s sarcastic reaction, replied with a challenge, ‘Come and see’, meaning “Come and see for yourself.’ This is the challenge that Philip is actually throwing at all of us now, in the 4th and last Sunday of Advent, when the truth of God in Jesus Christ is to unfold and be revealed in his birth, 3 days from today. So what do we come and see for ourselves, in the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ?
Do we see how an unknown town of Bethlehem in Nazareth was chosen as Jesus’ place of birth? Or why a little, young Jewish girl, barely 14 years old named Mary said “Yes” to giving birth to the Son of God from her virgin womb? Then also, why a manger in a cave; far from the glitzy lights and glamour of City life, in the dark of the night and not in a well-furnished hospital or a well-lit inn? And aside from Mary and Joseph, why was the birth of the Son of God witnessed only by farm animals and by the shepherds who were tending their flock and then followed the “the Star of Bethlehem, to pay homage to the King of Kings, as did the Wise Men - the Magis. Then why did Joseph, a modest carpenter betrothed to Mary, accept the angel’s message of taking Mary into his home as his wife, even if she was with child?
What we do see for ourselves makes us more skeptical so that more questions need to be answered. Did God commit an inglorious oversight of choosing all these ordinary people in an unknown and seemingly forsaken little place to pave the way for the birth of the Messiah, the Son of God?
II The Gift of Jesus’s Birth in Our Lives Or, do we need to look at the BIG picture in this manner? That God is the Lord of History and what has happened more than 2000 years ago was no mistake at all. God is no longer a distant God, for God in Christ Jesus has come to us in the ordinariness of our lives, the closest that he could ever be – by being with us in our poverty, in our families in need, in our daily struggles and challenges, in our careers, in our successes and failures, in our joys and in our pains, in feast or in famine. He came literally and physically to be one of us, in everything else except in sin.
Our ordinariness is what especially appeals to God. He wants to be loved by ordinary men and women, for the unworthy like you and me. Take the Blessed Mother for instance. She was a simple Jewish girl who was young and innocent but was open to hear God’s message. Humble to consider herself a handmaid of the Lord, her simplicity and humility found great favor with the Lord.
Joseph, on the other hand, was also a humble and hard working person. He was betrothed to Mary (husband and wife without living together) and was willing to divorce her to spare her life. For a woman betrothed to a man, who is with child that is not his, was committing adultery under Jewish laws which
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was punishable by death, being stoned to death. Until the angel of the Lord in the 2nd annunciation story of Matthew’s Gospel of today, appeared to him and told him not to be afraid to take Mary into his home as his wife, because she has conceived this child through the power of the Holy Spirit and will give birth to the Son of God. And Joseph did as he was told.
III The Message of Christmas In our lives, we at times receive unexpected news and are being challenged to embrace this, for it is during these circumstances that we encounter the Lord. Like Joseph, we can become fearful when our laid-out plans are being changed. We have to learn to be still and listen to the soft voice of our Savior.
During this advent season, a time of expectation and of awaiting the remarkable, we learn to be patient, to persevere through prayer and fasting. for without our being aware of it, God in Jesus Christ will be born daily in our lives so that no matter what the circumstances we find ourselves in, our lives are filled with hope and joy because we know that God lives among and within us.
God promised that a child will be born whose life will show us that He, God, is with us. The promise was fulfilled and our horizon was completely changed. We now have a God who led and had lived with ordinary people. So when we look at our lives and feel that we do not amount to anything, then we can look at Mary and Joseph and know that we can also be instruments of God’s Divine Love.
Therefore, the message of Christmas is a message that tells us that God wants to be loved by us in our ordinariness with all our frailties and vulnerabilities. God even sent his only begotten Son to suffer and die on the cross. He was treated like an ordinary criminal stripped of all respect and dignity. The story of Christmas gives special meaning to what is ordinary and unspectacular - a simple Jewish girl, a carpenter for a foster father, a little town of Bethlehem in Nazareth, a baby boy born in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes witnessed by shepherds and farm animals. All very ordinary and non-spectacular! What makes it meaningful and special is that this is our story too.
V Conclusion So brothers and sisters, Christmas indeed celebrates the meeting of the divine and the human, of heaven touching earth, of God embracing us and we embracing God. The Christ Child born in the manger brings us tidings of great joy. He came to heal the broken hearted, to feed the hungry, to find the lost, to bring light to the darkened world and to bring hope and love in our hearts. If the Christ-child born in the stable is not born in our hearts, then Christmas becomes useless.
And so, may we love the Lord God in the everyday and regular things we do. May we accept ourselves and others for what we are and what God has intended for us to be. The Kingdom of God, as Jesus said, is at hand. So let us come and see it for ourselves that indeed, something good has come out of Nazareth. For with the Christ Child born in our hearts, we are not far from the Kingdom of God. In fact, the God in Jesus Christ, is here with us. May the peace and joy of the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and your family always. Amen.
Deacon Donnie Geaga St. Peter & St. Paul Parish, Alta Loma, Diocese of San Bernardino