4th Sunday of Advent, Year A
Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 (7c, 10b)
December 22, 2019
It’s almost Christmas but not yet. We have to wait a couple of more days. On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, our reading from Isaiah prophesized a birth from a virgin. Our gospel today tells part of the story of how the birth came to be. In the second reading, Paul speaks of the call and grace we receive through this birth, the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Going a little deeper with the readings, Isaiah wrote in a time of distress for the Israelites. They were being attacked. Ahaz is king at the time and he is making plans of how to protect his country.
In this time of distress, the Lord sends Isaiah to Ahaz to tell him to “ask for a sign from the Lord.” God wants to give them hope. How many times in your life have you asked for a sign? I know I do at times, “Lord, please give me a sign to know what to do?”
Ahaz is offered a sign, as “deep” or “high” as he wants. What would you ask for as a sign? But wait…Ahaz refuses. Instead, he replies, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD.”
Really? He refuses the sign?
Yes. The wording of his reply, “I will not tempt the LORD” might look like holiness, that he doesn’t need a sign because he trusts in the Lord.
If only that was the case.
No, Ahaz doesn’t refuse the sign out of holiness. Rather, he has his own plan, a partnership with other humans. His plan will not work but he wants to do it his way. Thus, Ahaz “wearies” the Lord by not listening, continuing to go his own way.
What way do you follow? Your way or do you seek to follow God’s way (thy will be done)?
Ahaz does not want a sign but the Lord offers a sign of his own choosing, “the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”
We know that this sign is ultimately fulfilled for us in the birth of Jesus that we celebrate on Christmas. It is the coming birth that we hear about in today’s gospel.
The human person in this gospel is Joseph, betrothed to Mary. In Joseph we see a very different side of humanity than Ahaz. Ahaz sought to do things his way. On the other hand, Joseph was a righteousness man, seeking to do the Lord’s Will.
Joseph was preparing to take Mary, his betrothed, into his home as his wife. It would a time of hope, looking forward to their future together as they start their family.
In this joyous time of anticipation of their marriage, Mary is found to be pregnant. Joseph knows they have not had relations together. So, he can’t be the father.
To him, this means Mary must have committed adultery. One might imagine how hurt he might have felt. Still, he wanted to do what was right in the Lord’s eye.
He could have had Mary stoned but he was “unwilling to expose her to shame.” He still treated her with love and compassion. So, trying to do what is right, he “decided to divorce her quietly.”
The thing is Mary hadn’t committed adultery. Her pregnancy was from God. She conceived through the Holy Spirit. It is God’s plan that Joseph would take Mary into her home, raising Jesus as his own son, becoming the Holy Family.
Joseph didn’t know that. That’s why the Lord sent an angel to Joseph in a dream to tell him that this was all God’s will.
The angel tells Joseph, “you are to name him Jesus.” The fact that Joseph is to name the child is significant for it would signify that Joseph taking Jesus as his own son.
Thus is the prophecy of a virgin bearing a son to be fulfilled. Joseph did as the Lord commanded and took Mary and Jesus into his home.
Joseph answered the call that God gave him to be part of the Holy Family. Paul answered God’s call for him to be an apostle.
God calls all of us to holiness. God has a path for all of us to follow. It is through Jesus we receive the grace we need to live as true disciples.
Ahaz made a choice to follow his own plan rather than God’s. Ahaz did not have a good plan and, thus the nation of Israel fell.
Joseph had a plan based on his desire to follow God but it was not God’s plan. When he learned what God’s plan was, he dropped his own plan to do what the Lord commanded. With Joseph’s “yes” (along with Mary’s) came Jesus.
We are free to choose how we want to live but remember good things happen when we follow Jesus.