Throughout this season of advent we have been focused on the ancient prophecy of the coming of a messiah, and how in Jesus we have the fulfillment of that prophecy. This Fourth Sunday of Advent is no different as we read more about what to expect with the coming of this savior:
Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
first reading is again from the book of the prophet Isaiah. This week
we go back to an earlier time where King Ahaz is in trouble. The
Assyrian Empire is on the move. The Northern Kingdom of Israel is under
threat and King Ahaz of Judah is concerned that Jerusalem and his
kingdom are next. Rival forces are converging on Jerusalem so Isaiah is
called by the Lord to go and meet with Ahaz and begs him to stand firm
in his faith in the Lord. Ahaz, on the other hand, is more comfortable
putting his trust in the might of the Assyrians. Our passage this
Sunday picks up the story. The Lord is upset with Ahaz, and is trying
to give him one last chance to repent… to “ask for a sign from the Lord
your God.” While God sees this as an opportunity for reconciliation,
Ahaz doesn’t take the bait, which causes God to get angry (…is it not
enough for you to weary people…”), and in a show of power, tells Ahaz
that “as a sign” a virgin will give birth, bear a son, and name him
Emmanuel, which means “God Saves” (which is “Yehoshua” in ancient
Hebrew, or “Jesus” from the Ancient Greek). This is a power play
between Ahaz and God… with God saying, “If you can’t trust me, I will
send someone who does.” Our Psalm follows through on that sentiment as
we sing, “Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.” If we put our trust
and faith in the Lord above all others, we can’t lose.
second reading from the opening of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Here
Paul states unequivocally that in Christ Jesus we have this long
promised messiah… a descendant of King David, but a king that belongs to
everyone, including the Gentiles and the beloved people of God in
Rome. Perhaps equally important is how Paul describes himself to this
Roman Church… as “a slave of Christ Jesus,” a sentiment that many of
these early Roman Christians understood well. By Paul placing himself
as a slave to the Gospel, he also clearly establishes understanding that
no one of us is above another, except for the Lord.
from Matthew then goes on to explain the birth of Jesus, using those
very same words prophesied by Isaiah in our first reading. It’s no
coincidence that Matthew made this connection to the original prophecy.
We need to remember that Matthew’s original audience was Jewish. As
such, a Jewish audience would know and remember these words from Isaiah,
and Matthew is quick to make the connection from that older prophecy to
that of Jesus. This is typical of Matthew, drawing on the words of the
prophets to reinforce his evangelization, to show his Jewish followers
that Jesus is indeed the one who was foretold would come.
Christians, it is a reminder for us both of Jesus’ immaculate
conception, and Joseph’s willingness to accept this calling. It needs
to be noted that Joseph, by Mosaic Law, did not have to accept Mary
after learning of her pregnancy, and was well within the Law to have her
stoned to death. Not only was he willing to spare her shame, he
willingly accepted God’s messenger and took her into his care. This act
of compassion is a sign of the Kingdom of God that is to come, and
reminds us that our duty is to serve one another.
length of the season of Advent is a function of the calendar.
Depending on which day of the week December 25th falls determines how
long the final week of advent will be. Because Christmas falls on a
Sunday this year we get to experience a full fourth week of Advent (as
opposed to when Christmas falls on a Monday, as it will next year, where
we go from the Fourth Sunday of Advent straight into Christmas the next
day). This extra-long Advent gives us a chance to slow down and ponder
what it means to have this ancient prophecy fulfilled, and how this
child Jesus was a King in the most unexpected of ways, coming into the
world in the most humblest of ways.
Looking around the
neighborhood I can see signs of this extra-long Advent. What a
difference a week can make! Everyone seems a little less rushed. Where
houses are normally brilliantly lighted and decorated right after
Thanksgiving, many didn’t get their lights up until this past weekend.
Stores are busy, but they don’t seem to have the level of panic that
I’ve seen in years past. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful for this
opportunity to experience Advent a little while longer… and taking
advantage of this extra full week to ease into the bustle of the
Christmas season and the new year that is to come!