Fourth Sunday of Advent
Sunday, December 19, 2021
Holy Ghost Church – 8:00 & 10:00 Masses
Micah 5:1-4a; Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45
Here we are at the Fourth Sunday of Advent with Christmas less than a week away. How well have we used this Advent season to prepare for Christmas? Has this time been business as usual for us, or have we slowed down to reflect on what Christmas is really all about? Have we been so busy preparing for Christmas, attending holiday parties, buying gifts, and decorating our homes that we’ve missed an opportunity to really reflect on the true meaning of the season?
As Christians we must ask ourselves – and answer honestly – are we ready to meet Christ in a new, deep, personal, intimate, life-changing way this Christmas? Are we even thinking about that?
If we can truthfully say that we come to each day and each circumstance of our lives with the intention of not doing my will but, rather, of doing the Lord’s will, then we are ready for Christ’s coming. If we are like Mary, visiting others to share Christ, then we are truly ready to welcome him this Christmas. But if we’re keeping Christ to ourselves, or barely thinking about him except when we come to Mass, do we really love Him? If we are not sharing his love with others, then I’d dare to say that we are not ready for Christmas.
Why does the Church give us this season of Advent? And, in stark contrast, why does the world encourage us to start celebrating Christmas right after Thanksgiving, if not sooner? I think the answer is quite simple. The church wants us to take time to prepare our hearts to better appreciate the miracle of Christmas when the eternal Word of God, he who spoke all creation into being, came into our world as a little baby to rescue us from death itself.
On the other hand, the world does not want us to appreciate what God has done for us. The enemy, the one who wants nothing more than to destroy our peace and alienate us from God, hates Christmas. Who is the prince of this world we live in? Who is the one who creates all of the drama of the world and is behind all the evil we hear about day in and day out in the news? It is the evil one, the enemy, the one who is the author of despair and death.
The evil one certainly doesn’t want us to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. He doesn’t want us to fall more deeply in love with Our Lord. No, he wants to steal our peace and deceive us into thinking that Christmas is only a time for giving material gifts, a time for stressing out over the dynamics of family gatherings and the risks associated by gathering with loved ones during this time of pandemic.
But my friends in Christ, we don’t have to buy into Satan’s lies. We don’t have to let him steal the joy of Christmas from us. We still have this week to put aside some of our busyness and prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of the Word of God into our world. To reflect on the fact that the eternal Son of God through whom the entire universe was spoken into being, broke into our world on Christmas Day in a humble manger as a vulnerable baby, taking on our flesh so he could rescue us from death itself. So he could break the ancient curse and offer us the precious gift of eternal life.
In today’s gospel reading we see how some of the very first Christians, Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, react to being in the presence of Jesus, newly conceived in Mary’s womb. Mary proceeds in haste to share the good news of her miraculous pregnancy with Elizabeth and to assist her with her unexpected pregnancy. They both experience the overwhelming joy of the Holy Spirit!
Even John the Baptist, as a six month old child in his mother’s womb, leaps for joy in his mother’s womb when he senses the presence of the newly conceived Christ in Mary’s womb! This same joy can be ours if we only open our hearts to God’s presence in our lives and let him have his way with us, no matter how difficult or unexpected that way might seem to be.
Let us ask Mary to intercede for us so that we might experience the presence of God in OUR lives and have the same sense of urgency to share this joy with our family and friends! We can learn from Mary to continue ministering to others even when things in our life are uncertain and our future is unclear. Like Mary, rather than being fearful of the unknown, rather than being consumed by the drama of the world around us, we can rejoice in the totally unexpected and providential ways God chooses to work in our lives each and every day as he invites us to work together with him.
Ask God today when we receive him in Holy Communion for HIS joy to become OUR joy. While on your knees after receiving him, beg him to stir up your heart, as he did for Mary, Elizabeth and the unborn child John. Plead with him that you will be able to say yes to the invitations he extends to us every day to to love him…to put aside our cares and concerns and trust that he is in control, regardless of the circumstances of our life. Like Mary, we must trust that he has a plan for us and then go forth to serve him in whatever way he asks.
If we’re still not ready to welcome Christ into our heart this Christmas, there is still time. There are five more days of Advent to prepare. In these precious days, we can receive the grace to repent, forgive, love, and obey. All we have to do is open our hearts to God’s infinite love for us and resolve to share that love with others. By making good use of this coming week, this Christmas can be our best Christmas ever!
Amen? Amen! God bless you.