Theme: CHRISTMAS IS A BLESSING OF SALVATION
- Micah 5:1-4;
- Psalm 79 (80): 2-3. 15-16. 18-19. R/ v. 4;
- Hebrews 10:5-10
- Luke 1:39-45
1. Today is the 4th and last Sunday of Advent. In a few days’ time we will celebrate Christmas! The readings today tell us that Christmas is a blessing of salvation! The gospel today tells us that Christmas, that is, the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior, is a blessing, a grace, a free gift, and a favor!
In the short address of Elizabeth to Mary, in today’s gospel, the word “blessed” is mentioned three times! ‘Blessed are you among women’, ‘Blessed is the fruit of your womb’, and ‘Blessed are you who believed that the promise made to you would be fulfilled’!
Indeed the late Bishop Fulton Sheen said that it is easier to believe that a dog gives birth to a human being, than to believe that a human being gives birth to the Son of God! Again, it is all a blessing, a grace, a favor and a free gift! We do not deserve it, nor can we merit it! Thus we read in the gospel today:
“(Elizabeth) gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honored with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’” (Lk 1:42-45/SM)
2. The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading tells us that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem, the least of the clans of Judah, and he will be a descendant of David. David was the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse, but he was chosen to succeed Saul as king of Israel. God chose the least and the youngest! Again, it is all God’s blessing, it is all God’s grace, it is all God’s favor, and it is all God’s free gift! The first reading tells us that the Messiah will bring peace to Israel (and to the whole word)!
Peace (shalom) means completeness, soundness, wholeness, perfection, well-being, lacking nothing, etc. In the New Testament, peace is synonymous with salvation! (McKenzie) Thus we read in the first reading:
“The Lord says this: You, Bethlehem Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel; his origin goes back to the distant past, to the days of old. …. He himself will be peace.” (Mi 5:1. 4/SM)
3. The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm is a prayer for the salvation of Israel (and of the whole world)! Thus the response of the responsorial psalm:
“God of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.” (Ps 79 (80): 4/SM) That is, ‘God of the heavenly hosts of angels, bring us back; let your face smile on us, that is, show us your favor, and we shall be saved.’ (NJBC/HCSB)
The responsorial psalm has three stanzas. The first stanza is a prayer for salvation. (Ps 79 (80): 2-3/HCSB) The second and the third stanzas are a prayer for salvation through the Davidic King. (Ps 79 (80): 15-16. 18-19/CSB) Thus we read in the third stanza: “May your hand be on the man you have chosen, the man you have given your strength.” (Ps 79 (80): 18/SM)
4. Finally, the second reading tells us that Jesus Christ saved the whole world by sacrificing himself on the cross! Thus we read in the second reading:
“And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.” (Heb 10:10)
5. A word on the Advent wreath in relation to the second reading. The Advent wreath does not only signify the four Sundays of Advent, but originally it signified the cross of Jesus Christ. The lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath signifies the increase of light which is completed on the cross. The wreath is made from the branches of the evergreen pine tree which signifies life. The shape of the wreath which is a circle signifies eternal life. A circle has no beginning and no end! (Raas)
6. Today in the Eucharist, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and the Risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help us believe, as Mary did, that the promise made to us will be fulfilled. The Holy Spirit will help us pray for the salvation of the whole world. A happy Advent to all of you!