4th Sunday of Advent Year A

     In the last Sunday of Advent, as we make our final preparations for the coming of Christ at Christmas, our gospel reading invites us to take a step back and look at how Jesus came into the world. God could’ve chosen to enter into human history in any way that He wanted. He could’ve come as the child of a powerful king or He could have come as an already grown man without any parents, but He chose to come into the world in the same manner as every other human person as a baby in a family.

     In the last Sunday of Advent, as we make our final preparations for the coming of Christ at Christmas, our gospel reading invites us to take a step back and look at how Jesus came into the world. God could’ve chosen to enter into human history in any way that He wanted. He could’ve come as the child of a powerful king or He could have come as an already grown man without any parents, but He chose to come into the world in the same manner as every other human person as a baby in a family.

     The story of Christmas takes place within the context of a family, and while the gospels only give us a brief glimpse into the life of Jesus’ family, in these few simple verses, we recognize that while the Holy Family was certainly unique all of us can relate to the Holy Family in one way or another, because they experienced difficulties just like every family. The story of the Holy Family is the story of a teenage woman encountering an unexpected pregnancy and an anxious man planning to separate from her. It is the story of a family forced to leave its home and take up residence as immigrants in a stable. It is the story of the family forced to flee persecution in the far off land of the Egyptian Empire, which once held their ancestors as slaves. It is the story of parents losing their child and anxiously searching for Him, a story of a Son losing His father at a young age, a story of a widowed mother watching her only Son unjustly put to death in the cruelest manner possible and the story of a mother whose Son, upon His death, gave her to be the mother of the entire human race.

     The story of the Holy Family is a story of less than ideal circumstances, difficulties, pain and suffering, but most importantly it is a story of surrender. In the midst of the Holy Family’s many tragedies they maintained an interior peace because the story of the Holy Family is ultimately one of submission to the will of God. It is a story of “the obedience that makes us available when God calls us to be, the obedience that doesn’t to rely on our own greatness, but allows our God to bestow His greatness upon us and knows that only in service and self-surrender can we truly find ourselves.”[1]

     It was this obedience to the will of God that allowed the Holy Family to keep joyfully live their lives even in the midst of such tragedies. If we want to experience the true joy of Christmas we must live our lives like the Holy Family who shows us by the example of their lives that the key to true joy is to surrender to God’s will and to persevere in His grace. We live in a world where it is all too common to give up when the going gets tough, yet no matter how tough the going gets, we must persevere and keep God’s commandment, to love one another as He has loved us. We must never give up, even in those moments that seem the darkest or completely hopeless, for as Christians, we are people of the light and we can never surrender to the darkness. Perseverance is the key to living the Christian life because it demands that we place our total trust in Jesus who Himself was born into our cold and dark world to bring light. Yet if we are going to place our trust in Jesus we must make Him a priority in our lives.

     When we make Jesus a daily priority our own priorities will sort themselves out. We will find the void in our life and fill it with what we were made for, a relationship with Jesus, rather than other superficial band-aids like food, drink, complaining, or the many addictions that plague our culture. While no material success can lead to true joy, time with Jesus means joy, a joy that is addictive and will attract new followers to Christ and lead to peace on earth. Our “faith is joy, therefore it makes beauty.”[2] “Our faith, too begins with wonder at the very fact of creation and at the beauty of God who makes himself visible.”[3] Friends, when we have a personal encounter with the Lord in the nativity scene our lives can never be the same, for we become men and women of joy, so rejoice because God lived in a family not to unfamiliar to ours, He understands our plight and He is coming this Christmas to set us free.

[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.  Pg 367.

[2] Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Church Fathers and Teachers. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010. Pg 31.

[3] Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Church Fathers and Teachers. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010. Pg 103.

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