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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR A

 

This weekend we come to the last Sunday of the Advent season. In our churches we light the last purple candle as well as the other three leaving the last candle the white one for the first Mass of Christmas Day. It’s only in this last week before Christmas that we begin to hear about the “Christmas story” itself. For the past weeks we have been preparing ourselves to greet the Lord, when he comes. Now we prepare to remember how he first came, by listening to the prophecies of his coming, and by hearing of the events before his birth. We meet Mary, who herself had been prepared for the coming of the Messiah. She has received the angel’s greeting, and his strange news, and has accepted her role in God’s plan. Now she hurries to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who herself bears John the Baptist in her womb. John,  alerts us to the presence of the Lord, as he leaps for joy in his mother’s womb. His joy is that God has kept his promise, and is with his people.

Matthew is well planted in his Jewish tradition. He shows that from the very beginning of his gospel. By quoting the prophet Isaiah, Matthew tells us that God is with us; not in general, but now on the throne of David – as God had promised. The promise found in Scripture has been fulfilled. By referring his readers to the scriptures, Isaiah reminds his readers that believers do well to put confidence in the Scripture – especially to sustain hope and strengthen faith in discouraging times.

God enters into our world: it’s a world where plans don’t always work out and where people have to adjust to the reality presented to them. Joseph was betrothed to Mary; he had his plans. Mary’s pregnancy turns his world and plans upside down. Instead of exposing her, he “decided to divorce her quietly.” He was a “righteous man” and he will protect Mary from being publicly dishonored. He is not vengeful and, though wronged, displays mercy. After his dream Joseph, “took his wife into his home.” The world God chose to enter was not only one of poverty, hard labor and political and military oppression but, from the beginning, messy – even while the child was still in his mother’s womb. God took a big chance being born among us. Surely there must have been neater options for God, to make the savior’s path and work a bit smoother. But who has a “smooth path” through life anyway? It’s good to know that Emmanuel, “God with us,” chose to be with us – people of the real and messy world. God is with us in the mess of our daily lives!

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