By Fr. NOEL SEBETERO, SDB
4th Sunday of Advent
Is 7: 10-14
Rom 1: 1-7
Mt 1: 18-24
In 1977, the Baptist Church in Melba, a rural American town, was about to close its doors forever. Over the years, churchgoing had dropped off alarmingly. Some hurts and misunderstandings had divided and shattered the congregation. All that remained was about a dozen of people on the verge of giving up.
That handful of people gathered in the church one Sunday to vote whether to continue services or to close down for good. The meeting was interrupted when a child appeared-a child of only seven years- who wanted to join the Sunday school and the church service.
Angela, for that was her name, returned the next Sunday, and the next and the next. That child became the reason for the Melba Baptist Church to go on. They struggled to live in order to nurture a young spirit from one Sunday to the next. Angela was their glimmer of hope. She was their future.
The child’s appearance saved the congregation from extinction and sure death. The Melba Baptist Church has become renovated and increased in membership. As far as they are concerned, the little girl who came alone to the church that long-ago Sunday was sent by God. (Sue Monk Kidd, Guideposts Magazine)
Today is marked by the birth of a child. We may call it the Sunday of Births, as the three readings speak of it. But this is not just any ordinary birth but an exquisite sign of God’s love.
It is the most enduring symbol of hope for humanity. It is an event of divine intervention, a divine presence, a revelation. It is an expression of His benevolence and a promise of salvation.
It is a gift of presence especially in our moments of darkness and difficulties. It is a sign of hope in weakness, an assurance of life and victory in defeat and destruction.
Today’s Gospel sees the fulfillment of the Emmanuel prophecy in Jesus. “The sign that God gives is the birth of a child. It is a sign, because this birth is a promise of salvation. Moreover, he will bear the significant name Emmanuel, that is, God-with-us. The child, the sign of he salvation of God, will be no ordinary person, and he will come from David’s lineage: the Messiah himself.
“When Jesus appeared, born of a woman – a virgin whose name was Mary – to whom the angel of God said: You shall conceive and bear a son. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and his reign will be without end (Lk 1: 31-33), one will easily surmise that he must be the promised Messiah.
“Not merely one sign among many, but THE sign of God, in a way that none can imagine: God-with-us. The sign of his presence and initiative was given to us when he chose a young woman – a virgin – to give birth to the Savior.
“The very fragility of this sign – the birth of a child – is the most extraordinary, the most unexpected, and at the same time the most visible of the manifestations of the strength and love of God who is faithful to his promises.” (Days of the Lord, vol. 1)
As announced by Isaiah to Ahaz, this sign is a powerful indication of Yahweh’s abiding presence and merciful intervention. More than our security, the liturgy invites us to trust in God alone, to celebrate his presence, and to pause for a while and know Him once again as our God.
Pause a while and know that I am God! He calls us beyond our terrifying capacity to offer no to His presence in order to perceive Him anew in Jesus. He is with us! Promised by the prophet, prepared for by hopeful sinners, his presence is the good news.
In Jesus, God has begun to tell his saving story. In his birth, promise meets fulfillment. In every aspect of his life, from the crib to the cross, the love of God is revealed.
Pause a while and know that I am God!
At the end of this day, when all the gifts have been opened and all the songs have been sung,.when all the food has been eaten and all the friends and family have gone their way … pause a while.
He is with us!
He is the gift which never ends, the nearness which never leaves, the sacred food which never ceases to nourish, the song that will eternally be sung. (Patricia Datchuck Sanchez)