Receiving the Message of God for Christmas

Shoichi Kondoh handing the money for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda

4th Sunday of Advent, Year A

Our journey towards Christmas continues and as we anticipate that celebration, our yearning for Christ goes even deeper. Today, we hear a wonderful narrative before Jesus was born. We heard about Mary being chosen to bear the Son of God. More importantly, we heard about Joseph, who planned to divorce Mary after hearing the she was already pregnant. Through God’s intervention and the angel’s news, Joseph surrendered himself to follow God’s will.

We’ve heard the message too and so today we ask: “What should we do with the message?”

1. The first thing that we have to do is to BELIEVE the message. How can we grow in faith without believing the message? In our Gospel last Thursday, the angel Gabriel announced the good news to Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth is to conceive a child. Zechariah did not believe and so his ability to speak was taken away. This may tell us a very important truth of not talking if we do not believe. Speech is meant to proclaim the truth. Truth has to be spoken out. In the same way, we should not say “Merry Christmas” if in the first place we don’t believe the message. Hear this story:

Typical of last-minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from store to store. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her three-year-old son was no longer clutched in hers. In panic she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flat against a frosty window. He was gazing at a manger scene. Hearing his mother’s near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee: "Look Mommy! It’s Jesus - Baby Jesus in the hay!” With obvious indifference to his joy and wonder, she impatiently jerked him away saying, "We don’t have time for that!" Christmas is a celebration of “Jesus in the hay” who became like us except sin.

In today’s Gospel Joseph heard the message of God through the Angel Gabriel in a dream. Convinced with what the angel said, Joseph believed the message and took Mary into his home. Joseph is a clear example of faith as he gave his own “YES” as soon as he received the message.

2. Next, is to REFLECT on the message. Zechariah had nine long months in silence to reflect on the message. It was probably the longest retreat that a person ever underwent. Mary on the one hand needed no retreat, but has always kept and pondered upon the message of God to her heart. In the same way, the 4-week advent season in anticipation of Christmas is a good opportunity to reflect on God’s message. Why is this important again? It is as important as spending some alone time with God in order that was may come to LOVE HIM.

Our understanding at the level of the MIND is important as we read the Scriptures. But we can reach a level of depth and love of Christ if we bring our understanding to prayer and reflection such as when we do Lectio Divina as opposed to simply reading the Word of God. If Zechariah was able to endure and spend that long period retreat until the time the revelation of the Angel Gabriel was fulfilled, why can’t we? Don’t we want our questions answered by God as He speaks to our hearts?

3. Finally, the most important of all is to LIVE the message. It is to allow God to use us so that the message of Christmas will be felt by the people around us. Having experienced real Christmas, it is also our mission to let other people experience it more through us. From being a receiver of the message, we now become the bearer and proclaimer of the message.

In my Simbang Gabi Masses or Dawn Masses this year I’ve told people about some interesting true events I’ve heard about people stepping up from different walks of life to help the victims of the recent calamity in the Philippines. There was this 9-year old boy (one of the youngest of all donors) who donated 5,000.00 yen, which is more or less equivalent to 20+ usd. I am not so sure if this little boy is Catholic, but what he did was LIVING UP to the GOSPEL of CHRIST. Will we be able to sacrifice something valuable to us in order to help thousands of people who are suffering? Living the message is a clear quality of a true disciple of Christ. Witnessing is the best way of evangelizing: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” [E.N. no. 67]

Getting close to Christmas, we are called to ponder upon the message of God. But what is the message? The message remains the same: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. Whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life (John 3:16). Such is the message of CHRISTMAS. The MAIN reason why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

God bless us all!

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