| Isaiah 7: 10 – 4 | Romans 1: 1 – 7 | Matthew 1: 18 – 24 | 4 Advent A ’14 |
Scripture Readings: Fourth Sunday of Advent
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 12.22.2013
Unintentionally, Advent / Christmas has become a time of “pretend.” Everyone, especially parents and grandparents look forward to those Christmas Pageants in which children “make-believe” they are Mary, Joseph, shepherds or angels. Such pageants seem innocent enough but they inadvertently distort the message of the infancy narratives! So my responsibility as a homilist is to move us out of the “make-believe” world into “the Christ mystery.”
This year I am very aware of two individuals in whom we see the “Christ mystery.” The courage, the character, the love of Malala, the sixteen-year old Muslim girl, captured the hearts of people everywhere. In her we see “the Christ Mystery!” Recently Nelson Mandela died. During his twenty-five years in prison he learned to sublimate his primal instincts. His unconditional love for and his forgiveness of those who kept him imprisoned empowered the people of South Africa to be all they can be. He inspired the people of South Africa and the world. In him we see “the Christ mystery!” Neither of them would think of themselves in this way. There is nothing “make-believe” about either of them. In each we see examples of what it is to be fully human!
When the communities of Matthew and Luke composed their gospels, little, perhaps nothing was known about the birth of Jesus. These two evangelists were not concerned about biographical, historical facts. Jesus of Nazareth had transformed them and those in their community. Because of him they knew they were loved and wanted to share their experience with others. They wanted others to know the Christ mystery and each community chose to introduce their tale with an infancy narrative in which they announce that in Jesus of Nazareth a new creation occurred! In Christ, a new creation began breaking into our world and all people are able to participate in it. We see that “new creation” in Malala and in Nelson Mandela. That sixteen year old struggles as Mandela did to bring about conditions and an environment in which life can be more fully human for all people.
In the gospel today the word “God” appears only once. We heard it in the dialogue between Joseph and the angel of the Lord. “You are to name him Jesus (Emmanuel) which means God is with us, because he will save his people from their sins.”
The focus is Jesus of Nazareth, but the text describes far more than a singular incident involving a single human. That Gracious Mystery we name God is a permeating presence beyond our comprehension empowering all of us to be fully human and fully alive.
I think that is what Matthew means when he tells us “he [Emmanuel] will save his people from their sins.” He is not telling us that a giant parent in the sky came to rescue us from moral turpitude. Matthew wants us to understand and appreciate that in Christ, the Gracious Mystery we name God is empowering all of us to be fully human and fully alive.
That is why I am proposing “Malala” and “Nelson Mandela” as our Advent guides. In them we see “Christ!” – God’s new creation emerging among us. In Christ we see what we are called to be and are fully capable of becoming.
Advent/Christmas is not about “make-believe.” This season is about us as much as it is about Jesus of Nazareth. Whenever a human life is open to all that human life can be, that includes all and every one of us, humanity and divinity flow together as one.
Like Malala and like Mandela you and I have the ability to sublimate the energy of those primal instincts bedded in our DNA. We can sublimate that energy into unconditional love. As we do so we are evolving to a higher level of consciousness and becoming more fully human, more fully alive. Christ! Malala! Nelson Mandela! Ordinary people like you! God’s new creation is emerging among us. There is nothing “pretend” or “make-believe” about that!