The Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, "I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!" Then Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.(P) The word of the Lord.
The Lord's are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it. For He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. (R)
Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord? or who may stand in His holy place? One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain. (R)
He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, a reward from God his savior. Such is the race that seeks for Him, that seeks the face of the God of Jacob. (R)
Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised previously through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, the gospel about His Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, among whom you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.(P) The word of the Lord.
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us." When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Advent season is not just about preparing for the commemoration of the birth of Jesus; it is also about preparing the way for the return of Jesus. Hence, the Scripture readings during this time focus on both the First and Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
In the first week we heard of Jesus' own prediction about His return at the end of time which broadly refers to the time of our own death, when God will call us to meet Him and give Him an account of our life on earth. But since "no one knows that hour, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone", Matthew (24:36), we are commanded to watch continually for the coming of Christ. In the second week we read about the prophet John the Baptist who had started preaching before Jesus and called upon all people of Israel to repent and prepare their hearts for the coming Christ, the Messiah. This refers to the first coming. Sincere repentance has always been a necessary element for salvation.
Therefore, we are urged not to depend overly on the piety and righteousness of our parents and others, but instead truly repent of our sins, and profess our belief in Jesus Christ. Repentance must be followed by a change in our life. Last week we read of Jesus Himself confirming that all the prophecies given by all the prophets find their fulfilment in Him. When John the Baptist was in prison, although he seemed to have openly wondered if Jesus was the promised Messiah, yet we know he believed Jesus to be the Messiah. So we too, in spite of all doubts, are called upon to believe and accept Jesus as the Messiah.
In today's gospel we read how the birth of Jesus really came about. Matthew writes that Jesus' mother Mary became pregnant not because of Joseph but because the child was conceived miraculously, through the Holy Spirit. The Bible does not tell us exactly when Mary and Joseph were married, but Matthew describes that they were "betrothed" before they lived together. According to Jewish custom, in ancient times an engaged couple could not live together, nor have sexual relations, until after the marriage ceremony. And betrothals or engagements were binding and could only be terminated by an official divorce decree. Therefore, for Mary to become pregnant before her marriage must have been a huge embarrassment and shock to her and Joseph, as well as to their families and friends.
So it is no wonder we read that Joseph, being a righteous man, meaning a man faithful to the Jewish law and practices, wanted to break his ties and divorce Mary quietly. But God in His wisdom and mercy intervened through an angel to reassure Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary for his wife, just as He had reassured Mary. The angel told Joseph that the child to be born was conceived by God the Holy Spirit and not by a human father, and that the child in Mary's womb was no ordinary baby.
He would be fully human and fully God. His name would be "Jesus" which means "God saves", and He would be "Emmanuel" which means "God with us" as the prophet Isaiah had predicted.
What is the message for us today?
I wish you all the blessings and joy this Christmas.
God Bless You!
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