23 December: Fourth Sunday of Advent Year A
Readings: Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Mt. 1:18-24
Mystery, signs and prophecy are some of the key words that run through the readings of the fourth Sunday of Advent. Briefly the readings place before us the mystery of the Incarnation foreshadowed in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament. In the first reading, Isaiah offered a sign to king Ahaz confirming that the line of David would survive the attacks from neighboring nations. The sign is that “a maiden shall conceive and bear a son.” Very true to the prophecy, the young wife of Ahaz bears him a son, whose name would be “Emmanuel.” Matthew in the Gospel uses that story to show the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Jesus the Messiah out of the line of David. That is why the Gospel begins by saying “This is how Jesus Christ came to be born.” He will be named Emmanuel, “God-is-with us.” Two persons are at the center of this mystery. First we have Mary who responds to God’s message through the angel with unconditional faith and trust. In so doing, Mary risked so much: her future marriage and family reputation, placing everything in the hands of God. Then we have Joseph who at first is disappointed and confused. He does not know what to make of Mary’s conception before their marriage, but divine intervention comes. An Angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and reveals the mystery of the conception. The angel advises him to proceed with the marriage, because Mary “has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.” Basically, Joseph is told to celebrate this unexpected birth. When he awoke from his dream, Joseph decided to follow his faith and took Mary as his wife. In so doing, Joseph saved her reputation.
The Gospel tells us that Jesus is born of Mary who was betrothed to Joseph son of David. In connecting Jesus to the line of David, Matthew wants to underline the fact that Jesus is fully human and is also the fulfillment of God’s promises to David. Jesus is also “Son of God”, a point explained by Paul in the second reading. For Paul, Jesus becomes Son of God through the resurrection that fully manifests his divinity. The Gospel also gives us a model to follow in Mary and Joseph. Both faced a tremendous challenge to their faith when God asked them to open their hearts to welcome Jesus into their lives. So what message do we take home today? 1) Just as Mary and Joseph accepted to welcome Jesus into their lives with deep faith and trust, we too are challenged to do no less; 2) As we get to Christmas in a few days, let us open our hearts so that Christ may be born in our lives as he was born on that first Christmas in Mary. 3) May our openness to welcome Christ also lead us to welcome others into our lives, sharing with them the gifts that God has given us. 4) We pray that God may give us the grace of welcoming the way God wants us to serve him in faith and trust.
©2007 John M. Mbinda