In today’s first reading for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C, Micah offers the Israelites hope during a difficult time. It is written following the fall on the northern kingdom. The Israelites are worried what is going to happen next.
What Micah offers is not a new prophecy. It is the prophecy of a Messiah to come, “one who is to be a ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old.” The Lord first promised a new Messiah would come in the time of King David. The Messiah would be from the line of David. The Messiah would come from Bethlehem.
The time for the Messiah had not come but the Lord reminds his people of his promise. This is to give them hope knowing that He will gather them together again and that He will be their shepherd.
The time for the fulfillment of this promise is almost here. Mary is pregnant but has not yet given birth. It is during this time that Mary goes to see Elizabeth. She goes to share the good news of both of their pregnancies.
As soon as “Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb.” John the Baptist was still in his mother’s womb so he could not see Mary or Jesus with human eyes but with eyes of faith, John could sense the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb.
Elizabeth too, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” recognized Jesus’ presence in Mary and called out, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Without any words from Mary, Elizabeth knew Mary had become the mother of our Lord. She was filled with great joy.
Elizabeth and John both recognized the presence of the Lord Jesus even though they could not see him. Do we recognize the Lord’s presence in our lives? Last Sunday’s readings reminded us that the Lord is in our midst, that He is near.
We live in difficult times but we do not face them alone. Sometimes we fail in the battle against sin. The Lord has a remedy for that. We cannot save ourselves. We don’t have to. Jesus is the one who saves us. Jesus comes as our shepherd to take care of us, to protect us who God created.
Jesus does this by offering a sacrifice. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were those of a lamb without blemish. These sacrifices were prescribed through Moses but it was not the physical sacrifice that God was interested in. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.“
So, why did Jesus sacrifice his life for us then? Jesus is the truly the lamb without blemish. He is without sin and so his sacrifice is perfect. Yet, we need to understand what his sacrifice is. Twice in today’s reading from Hebrews Jesus says, “Behold, I come to do your will.” Jesus surrenders himself to the Father’s Will. Jesus willing laid down his life for us as a sacrifice in accord with our Father’s Will.
We live in difficult times. Christmas brings us hope. At Christmas we can see the Lord coming into our world in physical terms. In faith, we know that the Lord is always with us. May we surrender our will to the Father’s, crying out, “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.“