YEAR A: HOMILY FOR 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
HOMILY THEME: IMMANUEL – GOD’S PERSONAL PRESENCE
BY: Fr. Gerald Musa
HOMILY: Christmas songs give us vivid explanations of Christmas in beautiful rhythms. One of these famous songs, “O come, O come Immanuel,” composed in the 12th Century, calls on God (Immanuel) to come, manifest his presence and ransom his people from lonely exile, from Satan’s tyranny and from the depths of hell. The song further calls on God to come and cheer our spirits and to disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s shadows around us. It is a distress call on God to come and save us. At Christmas, we celebrate the response of God to this desperate cry. God responded by taking human form (incarnation) coming into the world as a child (nativity).
Christmas is a time when we celebrate the birth of this special child – Jesus (Saviour). At Christmas we celebrate the physical presence of God who comes to dwell among his people. At various times in history God manifested himself in different ways. For example, he appeared in a cloudy pillar to the people of Israel and as a wonderful light shrouded in the cloud (Exodus 16:7-10; 13:21-22; 14:19-20). The people experienced his presence in the Tabernacle and it is this presence that the Jewish Rabbis refer to as the Shekinah. The people believed a Messiah will come who will be a manifestation of the presence of God. Zechariah prophesied long before the coming of the Messiah: “I will cause my Shekinah to dwell in the midst of thee” (Zechariah 2:10). In the coming of Jesus, there is a new experience of the Shekinah, the presence and glory of God: The Word dwelt among us and we experienced his glory (John 1:14).
Through the centuries, there was a desperate need for a savior who will re-direct the course of world history. Two great Greek philosophers who lived many years before the coming of Jesus expressed this deep longing for a saviour. One of them was the prominent Socrates who said: “Oh that someone would arise, man or god, to show us God.” The other was Plato who re-echoed this similar sentiment in these words: “Unless a god man comes to us and reveals to us the Supreme Being, there is no help or hope.”
The prophet Isaiah assured King Ahaz that a Messiah would come from the house of David, the dynasty of Ahaz. Therefore Ahaz was told not worry because the future of his kingdom is bright. The Gospel of Matthew also confirms that the birth of Jesus is a fulfilment of what the Lord said long ago through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us” (cf. Matthew 1:18-24).
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Emmanuel is God’s personal intervention into human history. His coming into the world is an answer to a cry that yearns for a redeemer. In Christmas we celebrate the presence of God in our midst and we celebrate the presence of one another. We celebrate the presence of a God who steps into our darkness; a God who steps into our fears; a God who steps into our troubles. His name is Emmanuel – God with us. He is a God that promises to be with us until the end of time. He is a God who is omnipresent. We cannot flee away from his presence. The Psalmist cries out: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7–10).
Christmas is a celebration of God’s personal and powerful presence. It is the story of how God became one of us in order to be closer to us and to save us. Jesus invites us to imitate him by being present in the lives of others. Our presence matters a lot in the lives of our beloved families and friends. Our presence matters so much to those who are lonely: those without family and friends and those who are forgotten by the society. An anonymous author says: “Somewhere there’s someone who dreams of your smile, and finds in your presence that life is worth while. So when you are lonely, remember it’s true: Somebody, somewhere is thinking of you.” At Christmas we remember that Jesus gives us the gift of his physical presence. And so, your presence is the greatest present you can offer to your beloved ones and to those who have no one to talk to.
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Liturgical Year A/ Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24.
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