December (17) 18, 2016
4th Sun of Advent
4:30 pm Sat & Sun
Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24
On this 4th and final Sunday of Advent we are just 1 week from Christmas. Advent is a time of preparation. So the question is, “Are you prepared?” “Are ready?” One way to prepare is to hang lights on your house, bring a tree inside and decorate it, put all the Christmas items out, scurry around buying gifts, get the food for your guests or to take to someone’s house, set aside your Christmas outfit or go buy a new one…whew, sounds stressful! That’s the practical preparations we make. But the more important preparation is spiritual, the more important thing is to know the real reason for the season: the coming of God as man as we heard in the Gospel “Emmanuel – God with us.”
This story I would like to share with you will help us to remember the real meaning of what we are preparing to celebrate. It is written by a gentleman named V.A. Bailey as he shares his experience just before one Christmas. He says, “I hurried into the store to grab some last minute Christmas gifts. I looked at all the people and grumbled to myself, ‘I’ll be in here forever.’ I hurried to the toy department and wondered if the grandkids would even play with my gifts?…Then, my eye caught a little boy holding a doll. He held her so carefully. I watched him turn and ask, ‘Aunty Jane, are you sure I don’t have enough money?’ Gently the woman replied, ‘David, Emily does not need a doll.’ The woman went to another aisle. David looked so sad that I couldn’t resist asking who the doll was for. He said, ‘My sister wanted it so badly for Christmas. I have to give it to mommy to take it to her.’ I asked him where his sister was. He looked at me with tear-filled eyes, ‘She has gone to be with Jesus. Daddy says mommy is going to have to go to be with both of them soon too.’ My heart nearly stopped beating…David went on, ‘I told daddy to make sure mommy goes nowhere until I get back from the store. I want mommy to take this doll to Emily.’…While he wasn’t looking I reached into my pocket and pulled out some cash. And I said, ‘David, how about we count your money again?’ He grew excited, ‘I asked Jesus to give me enough money. I just know I have enough!’ I slipped my money in with his and we began to count it. He looked up and shouted, ‘Jesus has given me enough for Emily’s doll!’…Just then His aunt came back and I wheeled my cart away. I couldn’t keep from thinking about the little boy as I finished my shopping in a totally different spirit than when I started. On the way home I remembered a story in the news several days earlier about a drunk driver hitting a car and killing a little girl and that the mother was left on life support. Two days before Christmas I heard the report where the family turned off the machine. The day before Christmas there was a funeral notice saying that a Mass would be celebrated on St. Stephen’s Feast Day, the First Christian Martyr (which is the day after Christmas Day). The mass would be for the mother and daughter of that terrible accident. Little David was the son and brother…As I gathered with my family in front of an overblown meal which none of us could finish, holding expensive gifts we didn’t really need I thought, ‘We’ve lost the real meaning of Christmas. God-with-us arrives as a simple child in need of love, and in honor of that day we spend too much money, eat too much and drink too much.’…I left the table, went to my desk, and wrote a card for each member of my family. I told them what I’d never been able to say, ‘I want you to know I love you.’…Through David and that doll, God visited me in the last week of Advent. Christmas will never be the same again.” (End of story)
The real meaning of Christmas is about recognizing the immeasurable, amazing love of God, receiving His love and sharing His love. We can’t let ourselves get caught up too much with the commercialism of the world but we must know the real meaning of what we are preparing to celebrate: that God did come to us and we are to try to bring all people to this same knowledge of His love…We are getting ready to celebrate next week that, because of the love of the Father, He sent His Son into the world for our sake, to open the door to heaven for us, a door that was closed, shut tight because of sin. He came to open that door!
To prepare for something we have to know what we are preparing for. Just like when you are getting ready to go on a trip. You need to know where you are going, what time of year it will be, what is the predicted weather and so forth. To fully prepare for what we will celebrate next week we must know who we are preparing for…Our readings tell us who this Messiah and Savior is. In the first reading from Isaiah He is called Emmanuel which means “God-with-us.” In the second reading St. Paul proclaims Him as Son of Man. But also Son of God. Both God and man. And in the Gospel Matthew calls Him Jesus which means “God saves”. Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Anointed One, God-with-us, both God and man is the reason we will celebrate. It is because He came to offer us salvation through a trusting, personal relationship with Him, united to His Cross and Resurrection. If we do not fully know why we celebrate, what is the point? What is the point of putting lights on our house and in our yard unless we know that we are saying, “Jesus, the light has come into the world to dispel the darkness!” What is the point of bringing a live tree into our house unless we know that the evergreen tree symbolizes everlasting life obtained from the tree of the cross. What is the point of exchanging gifts unless we know that Christ is the “Gift of all gifts” and out of thanksgiving and gratitude we give as we were given to…We must know why we do things as Catholic Christians and pass that knowledge down to our children and our grand-children and all who will listen.
And the reality is, is that Jesus did come to us and He continues to come again, again and again. He is truly Emmanuel “God-with-us”: in all of creation we see Him, in the little things and in the grand things. But He is with us most significantly in every Mass in four distinct ways: He is in the Word proclaimed, in the Eucharist (Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity), in the priest in persona Christi (in the person of Christ), and He is in the people, you and me through our Baptism…Jesus comes to us over and over in different ways, in little ways and in grand ways. He comes to us in our family members and in our parish community, in the poor and less fortunate, He comes to us in good times and in difficult times, in ordinary times and in extra-ordinary times. Do we recognize Him when He comes? Do we acknowledge Him and receive Him?
In the first reading Isaiah said, “The Lord Himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name Him Emmanuel.” This same verse was repeated by the angel to Joseph in the Gospel as a sign for him that Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit…We are called to be a sign that Jesus the Christ has come and continues to come: in and through us, in our words and in our deeds. It is in the sharing generously of ourselves and of our blessings that we are a sign that God is with us. It is in our compassion and mercy, in our kindness and in our thoughtfulness that we are a sign for all that God is with us. We are called to be a sign that leads to Christ.
So as we enter into this last week before Christmas let us fully realize and know the real reason for this season: that Christmas is about the immeasurable love of God manifested in the incarnation of the Christ-child and for us to receive that love and to share that love by the gift of ourselves.
That is the whole point!!! In the words of V.A. Bailey, “May Christmas never be the same again.” Amen.