4th Sunday in Advent Lk 1:39-45
The Book of Micah is the source of the first reading for this fourth and last Sunday of Advent.
This book’s author was a contemporary of Isaiah. Little is known about him. It is known that he came from a small community about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem.
As in the cases of the other prophets, Micah felt the obligation to denounce the disobedience to God that he saw all around him. Also as in the cases of the other prophets, he devoutly believed that he spoke not just on his own authority, but also more importantly as the spokesman for God.
In this weekend’s reading, Micah predicts that the savior of Israel will come from Bethlehem. David, the great king of Israel who established a personal covenant with God and whose kingship had as its chief purpose the guidance of the people in the ways of God, was from Bethlehem.
This new savior will “shepherd” his people, a term reminiscent of David himself, a shepherd. This savior’s majesty will shine to the ends of the earth. He will be the savior of all humankind.
For the second reading this Advent weekend, the Church presents the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Hebrews is distinctive in part because of its strong reliance upon ancient Hebrew symbols. This reading certainly is in keeping with this characteristic. Highlighted is the ritual sacrifice, the heart of the ancient Jewish religion.
The other central characteristic of this writing is its developed and eloquent Christology. Its message about the Lord, the Lamb of God, the Redeemer, is profound. This characteristic also is abundantly clear in this weekend’s reading.
St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the Gospel reading. It is the account of the familiar story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. As the story makes clear, Mary already is expecting the birth of Jesus. He has been conceived.
This reading identifies Christ. Elizabeth and Zachary were very special people. They were becoming parents because of God’s direct intervention in their lives. They were holy people. Their unborn child would be the great forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist.
That these holy people recognized Mary as the mother of the unborn Redeemer and testified that Mary’s child was the savior long promised.
The reading also reveals the great longing for God, coming to humanity in the person of Jesus. Ages had come and gone. Nothing else had satisfied this longing. God alone would satisfy the longing by sending Jesus.
Elizabeth and Zachary, mentioned in this weekend’s Gospel reading, were persons of deep faith. They were mature people. They had pondered life. They understood the greatness, and certainly the reality, of God.
Yet, as in the lives of all human beings, a vacuum was present. In their wisdom, a wisdom derived from holiness, they realized that only a knowledge of, and union with, God could fill this vacuum.
So, Elizabeth rejoiced when she saw Mary. She rejoiced because she knew Mary was bearing the unborn Redeemer, the Lord who would bring God’s presence and peace to the world.
Hebrews proclaims the majesty of this Lord. Micah predicted not only the Lord’s eventual coming, but Micah identified the need for God, a need sensed by Elizabeth.
In only a few days the Church will celebrate the birth of Jesus. His birth occurred at a given time in a given place. Advent points us toward the celebration of this birth. It also reminds us that we await not an anniversary, but hopefully more importantly a renewal of God’s presence with us, through Jesus. In Advent, have we recognized the vacuum of living without God? In Advent, have we sought to fill the vacuum, knowing that God alone is the answer?
Jesus the Lord, the son of Mary, is the Son of God.
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