The Fourth Sunday in Advent – 22 December 2019
Lectionary Readings: Isa 7:10-14; Ps 24:1-6; Rom 1:1-7; Mt 1:18-24
Theme: Seek and Proclaim Emmanuel
The gospel of today narrates the significant event of the second part of Advent. The countdown to Jesus’ birth has started: last week, last days, last hours, last moments before we encounter the biggest event of our faith: God becoming man. What the prophet Isaiah foretold is about to happen for each one of us. And it should be simple, except that the concept of God’s incarnation raises a host of questions: How much humanity versus divinity does Jesus have? Does he really understand all human experiences by virtue of becoming human? Has he lost some or all his divinity through his humanity? Many theologians and scripture scholars have attempted to answer these and many other questions about the incarnation over the centuries. However, the readings for today reinforce the strongest point: Emmanuel, a name which means: “God is with us”, fulfills the promise given to Mary at the Annunciation. It is interesting to contemplate the parallel annunciation made to Joseph, who is informed in his dream about the unique child who is about to be born. “According to the Jews it is only in a dream that God reveals himself. You cannot see God, you can only hear him. If you see God, you will die. So, in Matthew’s Annunciation narrative, there is no dialogue and hence no questions, no answers. One only has to hear and obey the voice”. (Asi, 34)
In his letter to the Romans (Rom 1), Saint Paul understands obedience to God’s voice to be in preaching the Good News of Jesus’ incarnation and the story of salvation through his death and resurrection. For Paul it is simply grace from God and His call that we need to follow. “God asks us to become agents of the Good News and invites us to become the point of departure of his work. God is asking you and me to present ourselves totally, selflessly and unconditionally to him, to say YES”. (Asi, 30)
There are many ways and opportunities to discover and experience God’s presence among us. Some come at the end of a persistent longing for God while others come to us as a surprise. In both circumstances, our actions are important but not instrumental. God makes His appearance in the time and way He chooses out of his unconditional love and desire to give us his graces in abundance. He hopes that we will recognize Him in others and ourselves. Once we do, we are empowered and fired for mission to talk to others about what we have experienced, heard and seen. “No matter how hard the way, it will be in some measure sweet to us, and we shall take it, not as a path along which we are driven, but as one whose attraction we cannot resist, because we know that on it we shall some day discover Him. Where must we seek? Everywhere – in everyone. How must we seek? With faith and courage and limitless love.” (Houselander, 147)
For Reflection and Discussion:  In what events in your life did you/do you see God’s presence most significantly?  What action do you hear God calling you to undertake in the week ahead?
Bibliography: Asi, E. God at Nazareth. The human face of God (Dhaka: 1993); Houselander, C. The reed of God (New York: 2006)
PLEASE NOTE: The weekly Parashah commentaries represent the research and creative thought of their authors, and are meant to stimulate deeper thinking about the meaning of the Scriptures. While they draw upon the study methods and sources employed by the ISPS-Ratisbonne Bat Kol-Christian Center for Jewish Studies, the views and conclusions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of their authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of ISPS-Ratisbonne Bat Kol-Christian Center for Jewish Studies. The commentaries, along with all materials published on the ISPS-Ratisbonne Bat Kol-Christian Center for Jewish Studies website, are copyrighted by the writers, and are made available for personal and group study, and local church purposes. Permission needed for other purposes. Questions, comments and feedback are always welcome.