Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this fourth and last Sunday of the season of Advent, we focus on the last of the four themes that we are focusing on this Advent, namely hope, peace, joy and love. And this Sunday therefore, we focus on the theme of love in preparation of Christmas. As we all know, love is the most important of all Christian virtues, and is in fact the very reason why we have Christmas in the first place.
For without love, there would not have been Christmas and all of its celebrations and joy. In turn, there would not have been peace on earth, or a new hope for all of us mankind, and joy would have been dimmed and out of reach for us, because God’s love has not manifested among us. But thanks to God’s enduring love for each and every one of us, the love of God has been manifested in none other than His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
This has been clearly stated to us, in what the Lord Jesus told Nicodemus the Pharisee in one of the most well-known phrase in the entire Scriptures, from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 3, ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave us His only beloved Son, so that all who believe in Him may not perish, but have eternal life.’ And this is in essence, what Christmas and all of its joy is all about, a celebration of God’s ultimate love for us.
That is why, after reflecting in the past three Sundays on the aspects of hope, peace and joy that Christmas has brought us and which we will celebrate again very soon, it is timely that on this last Sunday of Advent before the time of Christmas that we look into the very core of the Christmas celebration itself, the love of God made Man, the love of God coming to dwell among us in Christ.
And this is what the Scripture passages today have delivered to us, in the fulfilment of God’s long promised salvation, beginning from the encounter between the prophet Isaiah and king Ahaz of Judah, in which the prophet Isaiah prophesied of the coming of the Messiah, clearly speaking of how the Messiah would come, through the sign of the Virgin bearing a Child, the One through Whom God would dwell among His people, ‘Emmanuel’, meaning ‘God is with us’.
At the time of the prophet Isaiah and afterwards, as the people awaited for the coming of the Messiah, the true meaning of those words in the prophecy of Isaiah was not fully understood, and it was only then, when the Archangel Gabriel came to Nazareth, upon a young woman and virgin betrothed to the local carpenter, Mary, the one who was destined to be the Mother of God and Saviour, that the fullness of God’s intentions was made bare to all.
The Archangel Gabriel was very clear, and he said that through the will of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary herself would bear the Son of God in her, God Himself incarnate in the flesh, just as St. Paul mentioned in the very beginning of his Epistle to the Romans, as a core tenet and belief of our Christian faith, that God became flesh, assuming the full nature of our humanity and become both Son of Man, as well as Son of God.
This was what the Angel of God reiterated to St. Joseph in our Gospel passage today, when he hesitated to take Mary as his wife because she bad become pregnant before their marriage and before it was to be consummated. The Angel also made a link and reference to what the prophet Isaiah had prophesied earlier, a prophecy clearly well known to St. Joseph and all the Israelites, which right there and then was coming to its fulfilment.
And it was God’s love that made all these possible, as all of us must remember that even though we are looking forward to the coming of Christmas, but we must also not forget why Christmas exists in the first place. Christmas exists because of Easter, and all that is related to the Easter celebrations, namely the Lord’s Passion, His suffering, death on the Cross and finally, His glorious Resurrection.
It was Easter that made Christmas fully meaningful and it is by understanding fully the grand scheme of God’s plan of our salvation that we can better appreciate why Christmas is so important to all of us. It is not just merely another holiday or moment to celebrate, to exchange gifts or to expect good things from one another. It is not just a time for us to have parties or good food and drink, or to shop and buy the latest apparels and paraphernalia.
Sadly, this is what many of us believe, and what many of us embrace as we think of Christmas as merely just another good time and time to relax and enjoy ourselves, forgetting the very reason why Christmas exists and why we even should be joyful in the first place. We have relegated the Lord to the least important place in our preparations and celebrations, and we have overlooked Him in Christmas.
Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that Christ has given everything to all of us, as He did not even hold back giving us the ultimate gift of all, that is the gift of His very own life, when He suffered and died on the Cross, willingly enduring all those pains and sufferings, bearing our sins and the consequences for our sins, so that all of us may live and not perish, as He Himself said to Nicodemus.
And it was because of all these that we can truly rejoice in Christmas! Indeed, if not for all that Christ has gone through for our sake, there would indeed be no reason to celebrate, because by our sins and wickedness, we would have been condemned to utter annihilation and destruction, eternal suffering and pain. Instead, Christ took all the pain and suffering to Himself, and through Himself, He offered us all the Way to eternal joy and life.
If the world had forgotten the reason for Christmas and the true joy and meaning, then should it not then be a challenge for us all as Christians to remind the world? What do I mean by this, brothers and sisters in Christ? I mean that we should show it in how we ourselves celebrate Christmas and prepare ourselves for the Christmas joy to come. It is how we then remind everyone Who it is we are truly celebrating about.
It does not mean that we should then reject everything that the world has celebrated about Christmas, but rather, we should celebrate in that manner in moderation, not to give in to excesses in all the consumeristic attitudes that are always prevalent during this season and time of the year. We should instead focus our celebrations on Christ, and the best way for us to do that, is to follow the example of Our Lord.
If God has loved us with so much love, and therefore brought us new hope, peace and joy through Christmas, then should we not then show the same love to one another? This is what in essence we need to do in our Christmas celebrations, brothers and sisters in Christ. We must celebrate the love, not the gifts; rejoice with our brothers and sisters, and not with all the glamour and bling of the occasion; love and forgive one another for anything that we have caused hurt to each other instead of being jealous or trying to outmatch each other in how we celebrate; reach out and share our joy and love rather than selfishly keeping all the joy to ourselves.
This is easier said than done, brothers and sisters in Christ, but we must not then make it as an excuse then to be idle and to continue our lukewarm attitude towards Christmas. Let us all instead be beacons of light showing the path to one another, guiding each other and inspiring our fellow brethren to celebrate Christmas more meaningfully by turning ourselves once again to God’s love in Christ as the one and true focus of our Christmas festivities and celebrations.
May God continue to love us all as He has always done, and bless us all in our good endeavours, and may He help us all to prepare ourselves heart, mind and soul for the coming joy of Christmas that we may celebrate it well, and not to forget to share the love and joy we have with one another, especially with those who had no chance to celebrate. May God bless our Advent preparations for Christmas. Amen.