December 22, 2013 – Fourth Sunday of Advent
“The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (IS 7:14) With those prophetic words from Isaiah we are reminded that the coming of Christ is imminent. Many Catholics are familiar with the fact that Emmanuel means “God with us,” and that is exactly what is conveyed to us on this final Sunday of Advent.
Isaiah was writing some 700 years before the birth of Christ. In the Book of Isaiah Chapters 6 and following are designated the Emmanuel Prophecies. Just the key words in those chapters, including the first reading for this Fourth Sunday of Advent, trumpet our memories of Jesus Christ: House of David; Emmanuel; Prince of Peace; Wonder-Counselor; Lord of hosts. It is fitting on this last Sunday of Advent that the prophecy of Isaiah is proclaimed, as it will be repeated in today’s Gospel reading.
It sometimes seems in today’s world that Advent gets lost in the Christmas rush. Nevertheless, just as Advent has no meaning without Christmas, the true meaning of Christmas is diminished without Advent. For the past few weeks we have been preparing for the “coming.” The truth is that we have been preparing for three comings: the birth of Christ on Christmas; the second coming of Christ; and, the fact that the Lord comes to us at every Mass in the Eucharist.
Isaiah was called by God to be a prophet. “Calling” has deep meaning. It is worth noting that the original word from which “called” is drawn did not mean “invited.” It meant appointed. Each of us has been called (appointed) by God to carry out roles in building the Kingdom of God right now-today. Stewardship is seeking for what we have been called, and then carrying out that calling.
In the second reading, which is the opening of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul identifies the same significance to being called. Paul identifies himself as a “slave of Christ.” We tend to attach negative feelings to that word “slave.” However, again in translation it is also written as “servant.” It merely is pointing out that each of us is called to serve God and those around us. Regardless what word we use to describe that service, a basic fact of stewardship is that all we are and all we possess come from God. Thus, we, too, should be servants of God.
Naturally it is the Gospel as usual which brings everything together. The Gospel of Matthew marks the beginning of the entire New Testament. Matthew 1: 1-17 is the genealogy of Jesus showing how He is descended from David (the House of David as included in our first reading from Isaiah). Saint Matthew then launches into an explanation of “The Birth of Jesus.” Much of this account in Matthew confirms the prophecies of the Messiah, but it is also important to note the stewardship of Joseph. Joseph goes through his own conversion as he learns about and accepts the reality of the God-man for whom he will be the stepfather.
After our Blessed Mother, it is St. Joseph to whom God reveals the reality of Jesus Christ. This revelation comes to us as we complete our Advent preparations. Two key words leap out to us in these readings — Emmanuel, “God is with us” and “Gospel,” as we are now called to reveal the Good News.