Homily — 4th Sunday Advent C 12/23/12

Homily — 4th Sunday Advent C                12/23/12

With Christmas just two days away, and the Advent wreath  blazing at full candlepower with all four candles lit, this Sunday’s Gospel couldn’t be more appropriate in helping us get into the Spirit of Christmas.

We see the people in this Gospel doing the same things you and I are doing, and having the same sentiments you and I are having as we celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world.

First of all, we see the Most Holy Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, on the fly.

Mary set out in haste, St. Luke says.  There was a haste, a rushing around that first Christmas, to get everything done before the big day – just as there is a lot of rushing around you and I are doing these days.

Christmas always seems to come faster than we want it to, it seems like every year we say “I can’t believe it’s Christmas already”, and that might be just how God wants it to be.

The Christmas we plan and prepare for and then expect to happen is always different from the Christmas God gives us.

Each Christmas is always full of surprise graces from God that we didn’t plan or prepare for or expect, but end up being the best part of the whole Christmas.

So while we, like Mary our Mother, make haste and quickly get everything planned for Jesus’ birth, may we also like her expect God to give us some unplanned surprises.

Secondly, we also see that as that first Christmas drew near, there were relatives visiting each other.  The Visitation was kind of the first Christmas get together you could say.

The coming of Christ into the world naturally – or rather supernaturally – brings family together.

The birth of Christ makes us want to run out and visit loved ones we haven’t seen in a while, just as it made Mary want to run and visit her cousin Elizabeth.  It also makes us want to open our homes to others to share Christmas joy with.

May we, like Mary in the Gospel, carry Jesus within us to every home we visit this Season.

But while Mary and Elizabeth are certainly joyful at the coming birth of Jesus, nevertheless, if we look closely, we see both of them weighed down with many anxieties, fears and worries in their lives.

Its not certain whether Mary had told Joseph yet, but either was, she was probably very worried about what her husband was going to do, whether or not he would also say “yes” to his vocation as the foster father of God’s Son.  Certainly she would have been tempted to think what would happen if he didn’t believe she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

And Elizabeth was even more anxious about her situation – about being pregnant at such an advanced age, and about her elderly husband that had been struck mute. She was also so worried about what the neighbors and townspeople were saying that she went into seclusion for the whole time she was pregnant, going up into the hill country far away from anyone else.

Perhaps with all that was going on, Mary and Elizabeth were both wondering whether there would be much at all to celebrate when Christmas finally came.

And certainly many of us feel the same way this Christmas; we are wondering with all that’s been happening in our world and perhaps in our personal lives whether there’s any Christmas cheer to be had this year.

Like Mary and Elizabeth however, we need to approach the upcoming Birth of Jesus with Faith. Mary and Elizabeth were tempted to worry and despair, but instead they had faith that God was with them in their trials, that somehow, he would make everything work out, he would get them through the trials they were going through.
Our country continues of course to be deeply emotionally scarred by the terrible events in Newtown Connecticut two weeks ago. How could God have allowed such a thing to happen?

On December 28, three days after Christmas, the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Innocents. On that day we honor those children from Bethlehem aged two and under that were killed by King Herod out of hatred for Christ.

But as tragic as events like these are to us, how much more tragic and senseless would they be if Jesus hadn’t come into the world? How could we ever get through times of terrible tragedy if we didn’t have faith that Emmanuel, God is with us, in our trials?

And so, in the midst of our many trials, even because of our trials, we celebrate this Christmas and every Christmas God gives us, celebrate the Hope of New Life that the Newborn Baby Jesus brings into the world each year.

And so lastly, we see in the Gospel amidst the rushing around, amidst the visiting of loved ones, amidst the cares and anxieties, a supernatural joy.

Elizabeth cries out in a loud voice; John the Baptist leaps in his mothers womb.

Christmas is a time of joyful, loud voices; voices singing at the top of their lungs O Come All Ye Faithful, and O Holy Night, loud voices wishing people a Merry and Blessed Christmas.

Christmas is a time when we like John the Baptist should be leaping at the coming of Christ to us:  Leaping into our loved ones arms, embracing that another Christmas has come to us. Leaping and dancing to music of the season these next Twelve Nights of feasting on the best food and drink with family and friends new and old.

May we make haste, for Christmas is upon us. And may we, like Mary and John and Elizabeth did, keep the Baby Jesus in the center of it all.

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