Sunday, 23 December 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this fourth and last Sunday of Advent, as we approach the coming of Christmas in just two days’ time, we are all called to put our focus and attention to the purpose and true meaning of Christmas, that is essentially the great and never-ending love that God has for each one of us. Love is the centre theme of Christmas, without which, there would not have been Christmas, and without it, we would have no hope.

The love of God has made possible our salvation, for His love was so great that despite the disobedience that we mankind have committed again and again, our sins and wickedness, God is still willing to forgive us and to welcome us back into His loving embrace, if only that we are willing to be forgiven, and willing to do what is necessary in order to be loved again, by our sincere and genuine repentance.

God created each and every one of us because He loved us, and He wants to share that love in Him with us, so that all of us may forever enjoy the fullness of His love. That is why, we were never intended to suffer or perish in this world, but the fact that suffering exists, is because of our own refusal to listen to God and to obey Him. We have willingly chosen to follow Satan and his lies, rather than to trust in the love that God has shown us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all like children who have gone wayward and become lost from the loving embrace of our father, that is God, Who is ever patient and ever loving towards us, despite our rebelliousness. And God, knowing that the consequences of sin, is of eternal separation between Him and us, our suffering and damnation in hell, He wants to save us all, and that was why, He gave us the perfect gift of His love this Christmas.

The cure for disobedience is perfect obedience, and that was why, He gave us His only Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Divine Word, Who willingly took up our human existence, and become one like us, and by the will of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, was conceived in the womb of His mother, Mary, and was born into this world. His birth, which we celebrate as Christmas, marked the dawn and the coming of a new era of hope.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in every ages and throughout time, we have seen many men and women, who desired to be like God and to be gods. That, was exactly how we mankind first fell, because of our pride and greed, which Satan manipulated and made use of, tempting our ancestors with the temptation of knowledge and power, to become like God and to disobey God and instead following their own desires.

We have seen people who wanted to accumulate for them more power and glory, and in their actions, in the feeding of their personal desires, they caused the pain and sufferings of others. That is how sin continues to reign over us, as there is often no real love in us, but selfishness, greed and pride in our hearts that prevented us from being able to know and understand the pure love that is God’s love.

But this is where Christ came into our midst, bearing the fullness of God’s love, and the truth about His love for each and every one of us. His love for God, His Father and His complete obedience to His will, became for us the source of our salvation. He, Who is both fully God and fully Man, willingly took up our sins and the punishments due for those sins, as He was condemned to death for us, and bore the cross of our sins to His death.

And unlike the offerings of animals in the burnt offerings prescribed by the laws of Moses and Israel, for the temporary atonement for the sins of man, the offering that Christ offered willingly, His own Self, in the Flesh and Blood, the perfect sacrifice in atonement for all of our sins. He is our Eternal High Priest, Whose amazing and unfathomable love for us, has brought about our reconciliation with God.

Unlike those men I mentioned earlier, who aspired to be lords and kings, and even gods, desiring power and glory for themselves, here, we have the Almighty, All-Powerful and glorious God, King of all kings and Lord of all lords, Who willingly emptied Himself of all His glory and majesty, taking up our humble human existence, born in the poorest conditions available, in a place not even fit for human residence, and suffered death in the most humiliating way possible, all just that through His loving sacrifice, He can save us from our fated destruction due to sin.

And so, today, we should reflect deeper on just how great and amazing God’s love for us is. He has done everything for our sake, and He has loved us all so selflessly, even to the point of suffering all things and the worst of humiliations so that He can save us. But sadly, many of us have not realised or even ignored this love which God has shown us. We hardened our hearts and minds, and refused to accept God’s generous love and mercy.

We do not have to go far to see how this unfolds. We see how many of our Christmas celebrations, parties and revelries have little mention or even none of Christ in them. Many of us have followed the secular way of how Christmas has been celebrated, with plenty of merrymaking, but yet, Christ is not present in them all. Christ has been sidelined in our Christmas joy and celebrations, and as a result, instead of celebrating the true joy of Christmas, we are actually succumbing to the pride and desires in our hearts and minds.

We spent so much time trying to outdo one another in our Christmas parties, decorations and other celebrations, and yet, we forget that Christ is the One Who should be the focus and the centre of our joyous celebrations, and nothing else. And this is how Satan is trying very hard to distract us and to prevent us from finding our way towards the Lord, placing obstacles, temptations and barriers on our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have discussed just how great God’s love is for us, and yet, many of us have not reciprocated that love, and we have not appreciated the vastness of God’s magnanimity, His merciful heart and compassionate love, ever ready to welcome us back to Himself, should we desire to be forgiven and to be reconciled. But sin has always been in the way, and the more we turn ourselves to the many temptations of the world, especially the secular celebrations of Christmas, the further we may fall away from God.

This time of Christmas, let us all have a change of attitude, in our hearts and in our minds. Let us all turn towards God with a new commitment to love Him and to serve Him. Let us remember just how much He loved us, that He willingly emptied Himself of His glory, born as a simple Man, in a poor family, and later on, to be rejected and crucified for our sake. As St. John wrote in his Gospel, the Lord’s own words, “that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that all who believed in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the true essence and the true joy of Christmas, that we should realise and know from now on. Instead of worrying about the celebrations, about what we are to wear or about how we are to enjoy ourselves this Christmas, how about we reflect instead on the love of God, and then, show that same love in our actions? There are many people out there, our brethren, who are not able to celebrate Christmas for various reasons.

And even in our midst, surely there are those who are poor and needy, who cannot even worry about all the revelries and parties, for they struggle to make their own ends meet, each and every single day of their lives. We are called to be generous in sharing our joy and love, imitating the examples of none other than the Lord Jesus Himself, Who shared His vast and unfathomable love with us, by His incarnation and willing entry into this world, to be with us and to save us.

Therefore, let us all celebrate a more meaningful Christmas this year, and from now on, no longer selfishly focusing on ourselves and our greed, or all the materialistic and hedonistic ways of the world, but instead, live up the true spirit of Christmas, that is selfless and unconditional love, which God has first shown us, and which now we ought to show in our own lives. May God bless us all, and may He bless our Christmas joy, that we may celebrate it meaningfully, now and always. Amen.