FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
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. At Christmas we will concentrate on the simplicity and poverty of Our Lord’s birth: how human he was, born of a young woman, not in luxurious comfort, but in the discomfort of a stable. That shows him as one of us, the human side of “Emmanuel.” 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. Joseph, “took his wife into his home after the angel appeared to him in a dream. 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 not many if anyone has it easy. It’s good to know that Emmanuel, “God with us,” chose to be with us people of the world and living in the messiness of the world. God is with us in our daily lives with all the ups and downs! Christmas with the child in the manger with Mary and Joseph with the angels and the shepherds challenges us to enter into an intimate relationship with God who is Love itself. We are challenged to keep on trusting that we will receive love, and keep on receiving love, from God and others.