We’re almost there! The run-up to Christmas can sometimes feel like exactly that – a run, or even a marathon. No matter how much we try every year to pay attention to Advent and focus on the important things in our Christmas preparation, the last few days can pass in a bit of a blur. We want our Christmas dinner to be just right. We like to put a lot of thought and preparation into our gifts for loved ones. Many of us are on the move over these few days, perhaps visiting friends with cards and gifts and Christmas wishes, or preparing to return home to our families. There are parties, concerts and carol services. This fourth Sunday of Advent is the perfect time for a time out.
Today we find ourselves at the heart of the Christmas story. ‘This how Jesus Christ came to be born,’ the Gospel tells us. The message of the angel reveals his true origin to Joseph – Mary has conceived by the Holy Spirit and the child’s name Jesus carries with it his mission because ‘he is the one who is to save his people from their sins’. We see that Joseph is an upright man. Mary’s pregnancy has put him into a difficult situation, but he strives to act with justice and discretion. He resolves to bring his engagement to Mary to a private end. To lose his wife in this way was surely a sacrifice for him. However, the visitation of the angel asks Joseph to move beyond even his best instincts to a greater act of trust and generosity, which brings him the privilege of being the father of the household he is to share with Mary and Jesus. Joseph was confused and uncertain about what he should do. It took time, and outside help, for him to accept the fact that in Mary there truly was Emmanuel – God with us. His example is a reminder that although embracing the vocation that God gives us may involve difficulties and challenges, our generosity to God is never without reward.
God is with us now, but at times we struggle to perceive God’s presence. In the midst of the festive frenzy, it can be easy to lose sight of how our Advent preparation is going. Why not take the time for some quiet prayer today? Spend a few moments in silence reflecting on today’s readings, get away from it all with a walk in the great outdoors, or take the younger members of the family to your local church to visit the crib. Taking time out during these days leading up to Christmas can help focus our hearts and minds on the coming of the Christ child, Emmanuel and lead us to reflect on how we can become more aware of the presence of ‘God with us’ in our daily lives.
(Adapted from Intercom, December 2013)