Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent–Cycle A

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FIRST READING            Isaiah 7:10-14

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:  Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!  But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask!  I will not tempt the LORD!”  Then Isaiah said:  Listen, O house of David!  Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:  the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.

SECOND READING                  Romans 1:1-7

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

GOSPEL                Matthew 1:18-24

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”  When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Prophet Isaiah tells us:  “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.”  Lots of scholars disagree about the translation of the Hebrew into the Greek of the word which we translate “virgin.”  Really that is a misleading argument because it distracts us from the promise of salvation in the son who is proclaimed.  Yes, of course, we can also devalue that virgin birth if we do not accept the translation of the early Greek translators, but the first focus is on the son, who will be born and who will be named “Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”

In every age there are challenges to faith.  In many parts of the world today, there is an acceptance of Jesus, but often not as God or as God with us.  Instead our Lord and Master is seen as a good man, a strong spiritual teacher, but not as God.

Our readings today proclaim to us over and over:  the son who is to be born is “God with us.”  These are proclamations of salvation, God taking on our humanity so that we can be drawn into His divinity.

The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, gives us this prophecy, which is first proclaimed to Ahaz, but which was accepted by many in the Jewish tradition as a foretelling of the Messiah to come, who will save His people.  We Christians need to understand that many Jews, even today, believe that a Savior will come, a Messiah, but they also believe that Jesus was not the Savior or Messiah.  What is important for us is that the Jewish tradition, in great part, accepts the prophecy of a Messiah, a Savior.  We Christians believe that the prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus.

The second reading is from the letter to the Romans.  This passage today is surely chosen because of this:  “the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  This reading states clearly the humanity of Jesus, because He is descended from David according to the flesh.  Yet is also proclaims Jesus as Son of God, as true God, because of His resurrection from the dead.  The resurrection is always the point where the followers of Jesus finally believe completely that Jesus is Lord, Jesus is God, Jesus is Messiah and Savior.

Matthew’s Gospel today brings us back to the birth of the Savior.  Matthew states without any conditions that Jesus is born of Mary and that Mary became with child by of the Holy Spirit.  Joseph becomes convinced by a dream that what is happening is what is supposed to happen and so he does not divorce Mary quietly and put her away.  Instead, Joseph takes on the role of foster father of the Savior.

We can only imagine the feelings and thoughts of Mary and Joseph as they begin this journey with the child born of the Holy Spirit!  We can only imagine the challenges to the early followers of Jesus to accept something so out of the ordinary and almost unbelievable.

As we come to the final week of Advent, we are invited to meditate again on the mysteries and to deepen our faith that Jesus is Lord, God, Savior, Redeemer, Messiah and calls us all deep into the mysteries of God’s plans.  Let us follow the Lord in our lives and live as He invites us.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Emeritus Philip

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3 Responses to Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent–Cycle A

  1. In this season of gift giving let us reflect on the one greatest most valuable gift ever; the gift of salvation and eternal life which is Jesus Christ. Our heavenly Father gave Himself to us so that we can dwell in the house of the Lord forever by our accepting this most precious gift; for which we give our hearts to Him in return as our gift of love and adoration. Amen. ❤

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  2. Gertrude says:

    Thank you Lawrence and amen. It is easy to forget this precious gift amidst the hustle and bustle of the Christmas period. To you and yours – a blessed Christmas.

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  3. Mary Salmond says:

    The faith of Joseph and Mary is amazing! All those centuries of waiting and they become the deliverers of the Lord of salvation in their humbleness and faithfulness! Wow! That there is enough to contemplate all week!

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