4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas (B)


4th. Sunday of Advent (B) & Christmas Luke 1:26-38 – Dec. 24, 2017

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word“.

Once, an indigenous boy gave to his teacher for Christmas a beautiful gift. The teacher said, "You might have walked miles to get this for me." The boy answered, "Walking is part of the gift.” What we receive in Christmas is a precious gift from God, Jesus his Son, but he is also a fulfillment of a promise waited for many centuries.

The promise was made by God from the beginning of his history of salvation: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.” Many centuries move on. The promise of the Christ became more real as Abraham heard from Yahweh: "Through you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." Abraham passed God’s promise to Isaac his son, and Isaac to Jacob. Jacob and his wife Rebekah have twelve children, who became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel.

The mystery, God’s promise, was kept secret for many centuries. The prophets spoke about it. But it was Nathan, the first prophet who spoke about the Messiah, one thousand years before Christ, when King David, full of zeal and enthusiasm,
wanted to build a temple, because he thought it was a right idea to have a house for the Ark of the Covenant. David asked the Prophet Nathan for guidance. Nathan initially agreed but then he had a vision; God spoke to Nathan and sent him to King David with this message: “You want to build a house for me, but I will build the House of David. My son will come from you, one of your descendants. He will be the Eternal King.”

A thousand years had passed, and God made known his plan of salvation to all people, and not only to the Jews. The Messiah would not be a hidden mystery any more. The Messiah would be revealed to all the nations. The plan came through with a simple scene in today's Gospel: the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a young Jewish girl, the Virgin Mary, and told her that she would have a child conceived not through a man, but through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. That child, he says, will receive "the throne of David."

In this Fourth Sunday of Advent Saint Paul concludes his Letter to the Romans with this statement: “This is the message of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages (…) made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ.” The prophets revealed the plan, but then it took effect through Mary.

In the Gospel from Luke we hear the story of the Annunciation. Mary is so obedient and open to God’s will, that God chooses her and she gives birth to Jesus. Then a countryman and his expectant wife make a long trip to the town of Bethlehem. In this mystery of the Incarnation Jesus was the accomplishment of the promises from the Book of Genesis, and the Book of Samuel, and all the prophets; God made flesh, God become Man of a teen-ager named Mary.

We look at Mary and we see in her humility and in her obedience to God’s plan a true model for our lives. Mary was not asked to build a Temple for God but to be the Temple of God. In the same way God also calls us to do more than build a house for his presence. He calls us to be the house of his presence, and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Today we pay honor and reverence to the handmaid of the Lord. And we pray that we may follow her example and be so open and welcoming to God that we can bring him to all those we meet. Let us finish our reflection today by honoring Mary with the Angel’s salutation and Elizabeth’s greeting, which is the greeting of our Catholic Church to our Blessed Mother. Let us say together: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

CHRISTMAS: THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD (B) John 1:1-18 – Dec. 25, 2017

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.“

A young man asked his Religion professor how Mosses and Buddah would differ from Christ. He answered with a parable. A woman fell into a deep and dirty hole. She tried very hard but she could not climb out. Mosses looked in. He told her, "Stubborn woman, if you had learned the Ten Commandments, you would not have fallen in there." Then he left. Buddah approached. He too looked in. He said to himself, "Poor woman. If she had just listened to me; if she manages to get out of that hole, I can give her a good advice." Then he continued his journey. Along came Jesus. He saw the woman. Moved with pity he jumped into the hole immediately to help her out.

That is what happened with the Incarnation of Jesus. We celebrate today Christmas, the love and concern of God for each one of us; his willingness to jump into the darkness of our world to save us. Jesus is the radiant light of God’s glory who came to be the light of the human race, the light shinning in the darkness.

We read from the Gospel of Luke (2: 1-14) for the midnight Mass, “While they were there (in Bethlehem), the time came for Mary to have her child, and she gave birth to her son. She (…) laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” As we were reminded during the Posadas of the Christmas Novena, Christ is always asking for room in our hearts, and also we remember that Christmas is a gift that we cannot keep until we give it to someone else.

We hear this beautiful Christmas story of Jesus’ parents moving from Nazareth to the little town of Bethlehem. “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled (…) Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger (…) Now there were shepherds in that region (…) The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; I proclaim to you good news of great joy (…) a savior has been born for you’ (…) And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rest’” It is a story so simple that anybody can grasp it; yet, even after more than 2000 years it remains a mystery.

In the mystery of his Incarnation and nativity of Jesus Christ we celebrate that, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” The Son of God, became one of us, assumed a human nature, through Mary. He was not born in a regular family house. He was born in a dirty and stinky stable, in a manger, a placed for feeding the animals. His parents could not even get themselves into an Inn.

St. Francis of Assisi, a simple and poor man himself, understood God’s poverty as he became human, and he so loved lady poverty that 800 years ago he wanted to experience with his friars and peasants of Greccio the humility of the Child Jesus in the mystery of Bethlehem. So Francis with his brothers and sisters created the first Nativity Scene. That makes sense. “Il poverello” (the poor one) was captivated that God Himself did not just become one of us, but was born as one of the poorest of us. Through his own poverty St. Francis sensed the richness about him as he felt the presence of God in all creation, in Brother Sun and Sister Moon, in his brothers the birds and other animals, his sisters the stars, and particularly the people.

With Saint Francis of Assisi we should pray, today Christmas, for the beautiful gifts Jesus came to give us on his birth: peace and love where there is hatred, pardon where there is injury, faith where there is doubt, hope where there is despair, light where there is darkness, joy where there is sadness. I wish every one of you a Christmas filled with all these gifts. Merry Christmas!

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