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Bulletin: December 22, 2019

Fourth Sunday of Advent

What great lengths God will go to in loving and saving us! Think of the most outlandish circumstance you might conceive. That seems to be what the Lord is saying to Ahaz in today’s first reading. “A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” Not only is the idea of a virgin conceiving beyond comprehension in Ahaz’s time, so would the concept of God wanting to be with us be, as the name Emmanuel indicates. And yet, this is what we celebrate in the Incarnation—God wants so completely to be one with us that God came to be with us in a son born to a virgin, the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is more to this story than even these amazing and outlandish occurrences, however. God wants to be one with us so deeply that God partners with us to make God’s presence known.


Mary and Joseph play a key role in our Catholic devotional and spiritual life. No doubt, much of our devotion to Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his foster father, Joseph, is rooted in our appreciation of their willingness to put themselves at the disposal of the will of God, to seek what God most desired of them and to carry it out. We find their example inspiring, and their proximity to the Lord consoling and encouraging. Knowing that they said yes to God in such dramatic and pivotal ways, even when there was so much at stake and there were so many obstacles to take into account, gives us much to ponder. Yet there is something else we must not forget: while God could have come to be with us as a child in any manner at all, God chose to be with us through the active and humble cooperation of a woman and a man, Mary and Joseph.


Of all of the names connected to our Lord, two stand out in the ways that they describe the identity and mission of the Lord: “Emmanuel: God is with us” and “Jesus: God saves.” The most stunning thing about our Christian faith is that God is not distant, abstract, demanding, a god of wrath and military might. Rather, God desires to be near to us, in relationship, one with us in our challenges and in our joys. God is with us even when remaining with us will lead to betrayal, persecution, and violent death. God who is beyond all of this struggle remains with us so that we might transcend the limitations of our human nature in order to become more like God, to embrace the divine light that resides within each of us. As we approach the celebration of Christmas, consider this: what does it mean to you that God is with us, now and always? What does this call you to be and to do as a Christian, as a follower of God’s Son, Jesus, who is with us and who saves us?

Today’s Readings: Is 7:10–14; Ps 24:1–2, 3–4, 5–6; Rom 1:1–7; Mt 1:18–24

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