“God Is With Us”

4th Sunday of Advent
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Over 100 years ago Fr. Damien, a Belgian priest, began working with lepers on a small Hawaiian island. Fr. Damien wanted to help the colony of lepers. He found a source of fresh water in the mountains and built the first sanitation system and clinic for them. He and the lepers constructed a chapel for worship. Each Sunday Father Damien would begin his sermon with these words: ‘You lepers know that God loves you.’ He did this for many years. Finally, one Sunday Fr. Damien began his sermon this way: “We Lepers know that God loves us.” Fr. Damien now had leprosy. He went on loving and serving until his death in 1898. We know him more commonly, as St. Damian of Molokai. St. Damien came to Molokai to be one with the people.

The story of the Virgin birth is at the heart of our Christmas celebrations. In the first reading, we are reminded that God promised an unending dynasty to David. Assyria was the dominant power in the region and Ahaz was king of Judah. The prophet Isaiah told Ahaz to have faith in Yahweh, and not to become an ally with Assyria. Ahaz would not listen, and replaced the altar in the temple with an Assyrian altar. The prophet Isaiah wanted king Ahaz to ask for a sign from God but Ahaz refused. Isaiah announced God’s sign, the birth of a son from a Virgin, whose name was Immanuel, “God is with us,” and would assure everyone that God was really with His people.

The reading from St. Paul’s letter emphasizes that Jesus was a descendant of David and that He was the Messiah. St. Paul tells us two things, one is that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, and became incarnate as Jesus – and second that Jesus was revealed and established by the Father as the Son of God in power by his Resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ birth is important because of his death and resurrection for our salvation.

Our readings today talk about Ahaz and St. Joseph. These two men were very different from each other. Ahaz did not trust in God. Joseph completely trusted and relied on God. St. Joseph was a just and righteous man. He was also faithful, and always obedient to God. St. Joseph’s obedience allows Jesus to be adopted as a true Son of David; it is Mary’s role that allows Jesus to be born the Son of God. After the angel appeared in his dream and told St. Joseph that the Child was from the Holy Spirit, St. Joseph obediently took Mary as his wife. St. Joseph nurtured, protected, watched over, and loved both Mary and Jesus.

We are here in this Church, one week before Christmas, because, like Joseph, we are faithful, and we trust in God, His power, and His mercy. Let us remain faithful and prayerful, imitating Joseph and Mary, the humblest of the humble, the kindliest of the kind, and the greatest–ever believers in God’s goodness and mercy, as we welcome Jesus into our hearts and lives this Christmas.

God who entered our world through Jesus some two thousand years ago is at work in the world. The Good news is that the Child Jesus still waits today, to come into our hearts, your heart, and mine, and to change us and the world around us with the beauty of God’s love, kindness, mercy, and compassion. Let us take some time to let the Christ Child enter our hearts and lives this week, so that He may change our world with the beauty of that love.

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