Today, while celebrating the last Sunday of Advent prior to the Feast of Christmas Day, we can associate with the greatest joy of the Blessed Virgin Mary who awaited the coming of Baby Jesus into the world. Anticipation and preparedness are the watchwords for this Sunday of Advent. Anticipation of the celebration of the birth of our Lord some 2000 years ago and the festivities, gifts, parties and family get-togethers which accompany that celebration. This long awaited king is born in modest circumstances with no earthly power or show. Yet our faith tells us to prepare ourselves for him.
There are two places in the New Testament that describe the birth of Jesus. One is in the Gospel of Matthew and one is in the Gospel of Luke. It is Luke's version that we know the best and that we will hear on Christmas day. Luke is quite a storyteller. He describes the journey to Bethlehem, the birth in a manager, the appearance to the shepherds, and the angel's song of Glory to God in the Highest.
Matthew's description of Jesus' birth is very different. We almost heard it this morning in the gospel. But because we are still in Advent, the Lectionary stopped just before it, in order to save the proclamation of the incarnation for Christmas. Today's gospel describes Mary's unusual pregnancy and Joseph's doubt about whether he should take Mary into his home. Joseph would have felt when he discovered that Mary was with child; Shock, devastation, betrayal. He knew he was not the father.
Now in time, Joseph learned that Mary had not been unfaithful, that his life was not ruined, and that his marriage could proceed, although on terms he had never imagined. This doubt is resolved when an angel appears to him in a dream and assures him that everything is all according to God's plan in time. But in that first moment when Joseph found out that Mary was with child, he certainly presumed that all was lost, that God was absent and unconcerned.
The experience of Joseph tells us that God is working in ways which are not immediately clear. God has a plan which is unfolding, but that unfolding takes time. Therefore, some of the things which seem like complete disasters can, in time, lead to goodness and life. When Joseph heard that Mary was pregnant, he was convinced that his life was ruined. But it was, in fact, the first step in the salvation of the world. In light of this story of Joseph, we must be slow to judge when evil attacks us. Although God is always at work, it takes time to perceive what God is doing.
It is said that when St Francis of Assisi gave instructions to one John Velitta in the town of Greccio in Italy to prepare the first crib in 1293, with real animals and people, Francis seems to have said: "If you desire that we should celebrate this year's Christmas together at Greccio, go quickly and prepare what I tell you; for I want to enact the memory of the Infant who was born at Bethlehem and how He was bedded in the manger on hay between a donkey and an ox. I want to see all of this with my own eyes."
How marvelously true is the mystery that we celebrate this week? God takes on a human form so that we might see Him with our own eyes. As the angels invited the shepherds on the night of the first Christmas, "Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you", we are invited this week to behold the God-made-flesh. Let the celebration of Christmas, then, rekindle in us our own deep desire for God: to hear, see and touch Him. Merry Christmas!BACK TO LIST