First Reading (Micah 5: 2 – 5)
Responsorial Psalm: 80
Second Reading (Hebrews 10:5-10)
Gospel (Luke 1: 39 – 45)
This Sunday is the last Sunday in the season of Advent, and on this Sunday we focus our attention to the last of the four Advent themes. After going through the theme of Hope, Peace and Joy in the previous three Sundays of Advent, today finally we focus on the theme of Love. As we prepare ourselves for the great celebration of Christmas in just a few days’ time, we are all called to remember why Christmas is there in the first place. That reason is because of God’s love for each and every one of us.
This is the 4th Sunday of Advent. Christmas Day is fast approaching. Our preparations should be intensified this week which could be designated as the “rush hour.” Even our Mother Mary herself, went in a haste to visit Elizabeth who conceived in her old age. Her quick response to the message of an angel teaches us how to respond promptly to the word of God. On the other hand, the prophet Micha praises Bethlehem-Ephrathah which was the smallest clan of Judah. For out of her shall come forth the one who is to be ruler in Israel (Mi. 5:1-4). For this reason, we are filled with high expectations as we await the coming of our King. Everyone is expected to be calm, joyful and peaceful.
As we await the coming of the King, we have no time to waste in quarreling and troublemaking. We must be steadfast and focused on the word of God. It is not the time to increase the prices of essential commodities. It is a time of spiritual renewal. A time set aside for the Lord to enter and be born anew in our hearts. We should raise our voices and shout, “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved” (Ps. 80:2-3ff). Therefore, the letter to the Hebrews assures us that; “we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all” (Heb. 10:5-10). This teaches us that we are very precious to God who gave away his son in order to save us.
In Christ Jesus, salvation has come to us through the “YES” of our Mother Mary to the plan of God. She is “Blessed among women and Blessed is the fruit of her womb, Jesus” (Lk. 1:39-45). The blessedness of Mary is so powerful that the Holy Spirit follows her wherever she goes. The moment her greetings entered the ears of Elizabeth, the infant in her womb leaped for joy. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth raised her voice and exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women and Blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” May the same joy fill our hearts as we await the Lord’s coming.
Christmas is not just about having festivities and celebrations, and not just about parties, merrymaking and all the paraphernalia often associated with it. Instead, as Christians all of us should fully know and realise that first and foremost, Christmas is a celebration of love, of the love that is always enduring and pure, that has been given to us from God, from His heavenly abode. God loves us all so much that He has given us His only beloved Son, the Divine Word Incarnate, Whose coming and appearance into this world is what we celebrate at Christmas.
Why love ? That is because God Himself is Love, and by His incarnation, in taking up the humble existence of our human flesh and by lowering Himself to be born in e, a into this world, He has shown us what true love is all about. His love is what made Him to create all of us, because He wanted to share with all of us, with all of creation, the perfect love that He Himself has, in the perfect love of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That overflowing love has always been intended for us, to be filled with every grace and blessings.
However, it was because of our disobedience and the weakness of our flesh that our ancestors chose to listen to the devil instead of holding on to the truth of God and keeping their faith in Him. They chose to listen to his lies, and allowed themselves to be persuaded and convinced to disobey God’s direct commandments. As a result, we have been found guilty and corrupted by sin. We were made perfect, blameless and without fault, and should have shared in the everlasting joy and true happiness in God’s presence. Unfortunately, our sins and the corruptions in us sundered us from His grace and love.
But God did not give up on us, and His love for us yet endured. He has devised for so great a plan and prepared everything for us, waiting for the time this plan would be revealed to all of us. He has given assurances and glimpses of this truth and the Good News through His prophets and messengers, and eventually, as we heard in our first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Micah, God revealed how He would come to His people, through the small town of Bethlehem Ephrata, the small town of David, where the great king of Israel hailed from, from his humble origins as a shepherd, the youngest son of Jesse of Judah.
God sent His Saviour, His own Son, born into this world in that town, on that day which we celebrate as Christmas, which therefore is the full and perfect manifestation of His love in the flesh. God’s love has become tangible and accessible to us, since no longer that God is One that we cannot see and perceive. Having shown Himself through His Son, God has shown us just how much He loves us and just how amazing His commitment has been to the Covenant that He has established with us.
He came into this world through Mary His mother, dwelling in her hallowed womb for nine whole months before being born into this world. And as we heard in our Gospel passage today, even the mother of St. John the Baptist, Elizabeth, who was Mary’s relative, recognised the Lord present in Mary’s womb, and both of them praised God for everything that God had done for them. The miraculous nature of the pregnancy for Elizabeth, which happened in her advanced age, and for Mary, whose pregnancy happened before she consummated her marriage with St. Joseph her husband were proof of God’s intervention and the fulfilment for the plan of His salvation for all of us.
But even more than that, the Lord through that action of becoming Incarnate in the flesh, to be born as a Man, was an act of supreme love and compassion, which He generously showed towards all of us sinners. And why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because the Lord came to us in the human form and existence in order to share with us our humanity, to be the New Adam that would overturn the past sins and mistakes committee by the first Adam which led us all into sin.
And in the most important action He did for our salvation, done out of His ever generous and enduring love for us, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, willingly took upon Himself the punishments and the consequences of our sins. He took up His Cross and endured the most humiliating conditions and punishments, suffering for us on our behalf, in perfectly obeying the will of His Father, showing us what God’s love is all about, and how we ought to love God as well. As we heard in our second reading today, from the Epistle to the Hebrews, that is all that God wants from us as well.
He does not require from us offerings and sacrifices, referring to the ritual sacrifices done up to that time according to the Mosaic Law. It truly means that He does not require from us mere formality of faith and worship, and neither did He desire lip service from us His people. Instead, what He wants is a total commitment made with love and real genuine love we have for Him, as Christ Himself, in bearing His Cross has shown us. In that supreme act of self-sacrifice and selflessness, God Himself, the Son of God and Son of Man, the Divine Word Incarnate in the flesh, the One born on Christmas Day, showed His love for us, and His love for His heavenly Father, as part of the Holy Trinity of perfect Love with the Holy Spirit.
And that is what we ought to recall today, remembering the great love and the ever enduring patient love and compassion that God has always ever lavished on us, all these while. That is why this Sunday, we focus our attention on the what is arguably the most important of all the four Advent themes, that is Love. For without love, the love that God has for us, then we could never have been saved, and there could have been no hope for us at all. It was God’s Love for us that made all these possible.
Now, having come to realise God’s most amazing love for us, are we going to show Him the same kind of genuine love? Or are we going to continue to be stubborn in shutting Him out from our lives and in ignoring His loving presence in our midst? And most importantly, are we going to continue sidelining and forgetting about Him in our festivities and celebrations in and throughout the entire season of Christmas? We have to reflect and remember on what Christmas is truly all about.
Today, as we recall God’s loving presence in our midst, let us all strive to do our best to love the Lord with new hearts full of devotion and dedication to Him. If we have once ignored and abandoned Him for other idols and distractions in the world, let us now seek Him again with ever greater zeal and commitment. Let us all rediscover that love that each and every one of us ought to have for the Lord. And may the Lord, our ever loving God continue to love us and bless us, and may His love continue to be poured upon us, most generously, that we may also grow in our love for Him.
May all of us strive to celebrate Christmas worthily and remind one another what Christmas is truly all about, of a celebration of God’s most amazing love for His beloved ones, all of us, His children and His people, now and always. Amen.
God bless. Have a blessed Sunday