Monday, December 17, 2007

The Divine Origin of Christmas--Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 23, 2007 Year A
Fourth Sunday of Advent

Reflections on the Readings 

Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24:1-6
Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24

Theme:  The Divine Origin of Christmas

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place this way.

This fourth Sunday of Advent finds us in deep contemplation.  Shall we arrive at Christmas understanding that the babe in Mary's womb is of the Holy Spirit?  Will we keep Christ in Christmas? Matthew is careful to tell us that before Mary and Joseph came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit.

The annual parade of Christmas movies and shows always includes A Charlie Brown Christmas.  What makes this show endure is its faithfulness to the divine origin of Christmas.  Charlie Brown in frustration yells at the top of his lungs, "Doesn't anybody know what Christmas is all about?"  It is Linus with his security blanket in hand who steps into the spotlight to recite the Bible story of the Birth of Jesus.  Afterward Linus states plainly and simply, "That's what Christmas is all about."  

It is Advent that teaches us to inquire as to the true meaning and message of Christmas.  It was on the day of Christ's birth that a weary world rejoiced.  It was when Jesus was born the soul felt its worth!  And it is in this incredible mystery of the divine in which we find Joseph and Mary living.  Both are living in contemplation of what Mary's supernatural pregnancy means for both them and the world.  

It is meaningful to observe Joseph's consideration of the matter.  A careful reading of the Gospel reveals a Joseph in reverence of Mary rather than in suspicion of Mary.  We know this because he seeks to keep the matter secret and let the mystery unfold without any further claims to Mary.  But as he considered this, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus."      

Matthew intones the Isaiah passage with a fuller and final meaning.  "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means God with us).  When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.  

The Holy Spirit filled Mary and Joseph and fills us to know and understand the divine origin of Christmas. We along with Joseph rightly discern the person and task of Mary and of Mary's Son.  The words that Joseph knew her not until she had borne a son underscore Joseph's understanding not only of Jesus but also of Mary.  The word until asserts that the marriage was not consummated, with the idea there would not be a consummation.  We recall a similar use of the idiom when Jesus tells his disciples he will be with them till or to the End of the Age.  This sounds like but certainly does not mean that Jesus will be with us up to a certain point in time, but after that he will forsake us. 

The Liturgy and the Tradition of the Church underscores that Mary bore one Son and that by the Holy Spirit.  That same Worship and Tradition of the Church holds that Joseph never knew Mary in the manner that a man knows his wife.  We may note that the effect of the Angel's words to Joseph inspired him to find his vocation as protector and provider as well as guardian of her who carried in her womb the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Until his death Joseph walked in the shadow of his salvation.  Likewise Jesus walked and grew and learned under the love and care of Joseph.  And until the age of 33 he was known as the carpenter's son. 

The peace and joy of Christmas is upon us.  Let us in these final hours of Advent prepare ourselves like Mary and Joseph to keep in our hearts the true and everlasting meaning of Christmas. 

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, by the Holy Spirit draw us closer to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  May this Advent find our hearts filled up with the true and divine origin of Christmas.  Send your Holy Angels to us as you did to Mary and Joseph to tell us again that it was not by the power of men, or the might of human effort, but by the Holy Spirit Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.  Amen.



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