Saturday, 17 December 2016

THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS PREPARATION Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent (Year A)

1st reading: Isaiah 7:10-14
2nd reading: Rom. 1:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24


I once heard a story of a married couple who were in a marital crisis to the extent of division. One early morning, they invited a priest to help them with their marital problems. During the process the priest started talking about the marital promises they made in the presence of God and their family and friends, also the promise of God to them before they were joined together. It was then shocking to the priest when one of them immediately said "Father, those were just words! I did not mean them!"

As we are now busy preparing for Christmas, let us reflect on the first biblical/historical Christmas preparation made by Mary and Joseph.
After Mary was betrothed to Joseph and as was the tradition, if one is betrothed to another, they were not to live together until after one year then they are joined into marital union. During this period of waiting between Joseph and Mary, Mary received a message from Angel Gabriel that she'll conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary said "Yes"(Luke 1:38) and immediately she was found with child. This was in fulfilment of Isaiah's prophesy in the first reading of today: "A Virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel" (Isaiah 7:14).
(painting by Donald Shaw for www.stmarysbeauly.org)
Joseph, righteous man,  on his own part, having heard that Mary, whom he has not had any marital contact with, was with child, according to the Gospel of today, made plans to send Mary away unnoticed by the people so that she'll not be shamed. (Matthew 1:18-19)
What suffering Joseph must have endured at this time.  However, just like Mary, the angel appeared to Joseph at night and reassured Joseph that Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and when he woke up  "Joseph did what he was told by the angel". He took Mary in and cared for her and the baby.

In Mary and Joseph we found a complete action of obedience which St. Paul talks about in the second reading "obedience of faith" (Rom.1:1-7). Unlike Eve who rejected God's commands Mary accepted them and acted accordingly even as it seemed difficult and Joseph, unlike Adam who chose to ignore the commands of God, accepted the very big challenge and obeyed what the angel told him. Mary and Joseph teamed together even at the most difficult moments to see that the mission of Christ was accomplished. They meant it when they said 'Yes' unlike the couple in our story above. They stood still in the face of trials and conquered, and now, both Mary and Joseph becomes the epitome of true familyhood and true Christmas preparation with all its challenges, all its ups and downs, even after the birth of Jesus.

Mary's "yes" and Joseph's compliance helped to make the Paschal mystery of Christ come true. At this period of waiting before Christmas may we, like them, say our Yes and comply to Gods messages, so that when Christ shall come, He will find a place of rest.

With St. Paul I pray "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ !"

Fr. James Anyaegbu
Let us continue to pray for those who may not find joy this Christmas and ask God to send them help and bring smiles to their faces through the people around them!