4th Sunday Advent, December 19 2010
God is with us!
One boy was about to go on his first date, and was nervous about what to talk about. He asked his father for advice.
The father replied: "My son, there are three subjects that always work. These are food, family, and philosophy."
The boy picked up his date and they went for Ice cream. As they were enjoying ice cream, they stared at each other for a long time, as the boy's nervousness built.
He remembered his father's advice, and chose the first topic.
He asked the girl: "Do you like spinach?" She said "No," and the silence returned.
After a few more uncomfortable minutes, the boy thought of his father's suggestion and turned to the second item on the list. He asked, "Do you have a brother?" Again, the girl said "No" and there is silence once again.
The boy then played his last card. He thought of his father's advice and asked the girl the following question: "If you had a brother, would he like spinach?"
This is story not about how to date but of nervousness, fear and anxiety. When we go through such difficulties God says that He is with us. How? Let us understand.
Today’s readings express the same sentiment.
Go was with the people of Israel, God is with Paul when he was on his missionary journeys. God was with Mary and Joseph at the great crisis time.
To Judah, a nation in crisis, Isaiah promises that God would come to them as “Emmanuel.” In the gospel reading today, that prophecy was fulfilled. At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son just as had been promised by Isaiah, and that his name would be “Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
On this the fourth Sunday in Advent there are three ways in which God is with us.
1. God is with us in one another. The Christmas tree was put up in the church with names tags. There were around 200 names tags. All were taken by you to send some gifts to people who cannot make the ends meet and who have no means of giving gifts to children or of celebrating Christmas. In your generosity “Emmanuel - God is with us” was for those people.
By becoming human, Jesus made human beings a sacrament of God’s presence. God reaches out to us in and through one another. Not just during the Christmas season, but every day and every night we are called to be “Emmanuel” even as we find God in those who come as “Emmanuel” in our life.
2. God is with us in the Eucharist. John, in his gospel, gives no account of the nativity of Jesus. He talks about the incarnation by saying, “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” If we look at the literal translation from Hebrew, “flesh” would mean, the “whole person of the divinity” and “made his dwelling” would mean, “pitched his tent or tabernacle” among us. In the Old Testament, God was with the people of Israel in and through the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant was initially kept in a tent and the glory/presence of the Lord would cover the tent. This was the tabernacle of the Old Testament. A cloud would cover the tent as a sign of God’s presence. Later the Temple of Jerusalem became the dwelling of God. The Temple was first destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC and then again in 70 AD by the Romans. However, these earthly dwellings have been replaced by a new temple, a new tent, a new tabernacle – the tabernacle of the real presence of God in and through Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. If there is one thing that we Catholics take for granted – it is the presence of the all holy God in the Blessed Sacrament. “Emmanuel, God is with us” here in this tabernacle. The next time you want to be in the presence of God either in a time of crisis of otherwise, spend time in the presence of the Eucharist.
3. God is with us through life. God’s greatest gift to us is the new life God promises us in Jesus. “I have come that they may have life, life in abundance” (Jn 10:10). Emmanuel, God is with us.” God carries us from this life to the next. In embracing the fullness of our humanity it has been made possible for us to embrace the fullness of divinity. This advent, spend time reflecting on what that means for us personally.
We gather every Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we reach the climax of God’s presence with us. Here, God is with us a) in one another b) through God’s real presence in the Eucharist, and c) God allows us to participate in God’s life in the bread and wine. Today, again, here is Emmanuel. In this Eucharist, “God is with us.” Amen.