Fourth sunday of Advent, Year A

Is 7:10-14; Rom 1:1-7; Mt. 1:18-25

As we approach Christmas, the pace of things speed up, so that the spiritual side of things tends to get lost. Let us pause to make room in our minds and hearts so that Christ may come to us in this Eucharist.

All the three readings of today's mass deal with the identity of the one who is to come. This identity was glimpsed in the OT. Isaiah speaks of the coming of a very special child. But there is no clear evidence that he knew exactly how special that child would be. No prophecy is clearly understood until after its fulfilment. Matthew shows that Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus and in a far special way than Isaiah would have imagined. The Nt shows the true identity of this special Christ child. Both the second reading and the gospel reveal that Jesus was the son of David. This was so because Joseph, his legal father, was descended from the tribe of David. David was one of the greatest figures in the OT. He united the scattered kingdoms of Israel and formed them into one nation. Many times in the scriptures, Jesus is referred to as the son of David.

Jesus is not just the son of David, he is also Emmanuel meaning “God is with us”. He is not just the son of David, but more importantly, he is the son of God. Hence he is able to save his people from their sins. This second identity of Jesus is something which was not understood automatically but was gradually revealed. After his resurrection from the dead, he was known and accepted as “Lord”. He said himself that one cannot understand his identity unless the Holy Spirit reveals it. 

We believe in this double identity of Jesus as the son of David and son of God. We too have a double identity. As children of our parents, we are human beings. But we are also children of God through our sharing in the inner life of Christ. This means that we also have a divine dignity. Christmas recalls the greatest event in human history when Christ came to confer on us the dignity of the children of God. Our world today is in danger of being drowned in bad news. It is crying out for good news. But the best news of all is the one brought by the angels to the shepherds. 

There are people who fear, even dread the approach of Christmas. It is not the religious side of Christmas that causes this palpable fear, it lies elsewhere. For some, it is a hassle and extra work. For others, it is the strain on their already overstretched finances by the Christmas splurge. For yet others, it is the fear of the quarrels and conflicts that sometimes occur in families around this time. Also where there has been a loss or death, Christmas renews the pains of loss in a very intense way. This can lead to some loneliness or boredom. Finally, one's fears may result from advancing age with the sense of mortality and infirmities that it brings with it. However, we can all take consolation in the story of the first Christmas. There were plenty of fears in the key characters of that great event. Joseph was afraid. Mary was afraid. The shepherds were afraid. We must move from fear to faith. Christmas awakens our deepest longing, one that only God can fulfil. 

– By Fr. Innocent Abonyi, MSP

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