Micah 5:1-4, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-45.
As Christmas is gradually approaching, many people are busy preparing on how to celebrate it. Many people are planning for weddings, child dedication, house dedication, anniversary, silver jubilee etc.
These are good but there is the most important thing we should not neglect as Christmas is fast approaching.
At Christmas, we celebrate the birth and coming of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, so our emphasis as the season approaches should also be on how we can welcome Jesus into our hearts.
As the season approaches, many of us are mapping out how to celebrate it in grand style.
Some people are planning how to visit some friends and families, how to spend time with their loved ones, how to ride new cars and enjoy good food, the parties and celebrations to attend etc.
Have we also thought of how to welcome Jesus into our lives? As we make plans for the season, let us not forget to make plans on how to effectively encounter Jesus spiritually.
Today is already the last Sunday of advent which then will usher us into the Christmas season. Therefore, through the readings of today, the church teaches us how we can welcome Jesus effectively. Let us gradually go through the readings of today.
You Bethlehem Ephratah !!
In the first reading which comes from the prophet Micah, God promises Bethlehem Ephrathah, that though it is the least of the clans of Judah, out of it will be born the one who is to rule over Israel; his origin goes back to the distant past, to the days of old.
This particular verse is seen as one of those verses in the Bible that promises the birth of Jesus. From every evaluation, Micah was truly talking about Jesus Christ, the Messiah who is to come.
In that verse, we can see that Micah describes the origin of the Messiah. He speaks of Jesus as the One whose origin is from old. He is the Ancient of Days.
The point is that prophet Micah witnessed the captivity of the people by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. Micah was saddened as the Assyrian army led the people of Israel into exile.
Many israelites at this time, are like people without a shepherd, scattered everywhere.
The Messiah continues to warn the people of Judah of dangers. His letter is full of warnings.
So, amid this scattered nature of the people at the time, who were like people scattered throughout the place without a good leader, God now promises that one who is to rule the people will be born.
The Messiah will rule Israel. He will bring the remnant of the people back. Then, He will stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord, He will extend his power to the ends of the land. He will be the peace they are seeking for.
The Jews believed that this also is a messianic prophecy, as many people already know that the messiah will come from Bethlehem.
You can remember in the gospel of Matthew 2:3-6 when King Herod asks the people where the Messiah is to be born, they replied to him quoting the first reading of today.
The point here is that in this same promise, God promises that the Messiah will bring the people back again. He shall establish peace. The messiah will be the peace himself.
2. Therefore, to welcome Jesus at Christmas is to welcome peace. By welcoming Jesus into our hearts, we bring peace to ourselves, create a close relationship with God and bring peace with our fellow human beings.
In essence, one of the ways to welcome Jesus at Christmas is to be close to God and seek forgiveness of our sins.
So, first of all, this is the time to make peace with God. The time of Christmas is not a time to map out how many sins we shall commit or that we want to commit. It is a time to make peace with God and seek forgiveness.
This is s time to have a true encounter with Jesus. The joy of Christmas is felt when our hearts are free from sins and guilt.
Therefore, the time of Christmas is not only the time to build mansions only and attend occasions but the time to go for confessions and tell Jesus how much you love Him.
It is time to let Jesus know how much we are willing to welcome Him.
So, we do not have to live in sin from January to December without any attempt to change. We do not say we are God’s children, yet we find it hard to have a good relationship with God. We need to create peace with God.
3. We also need to make peace with people. In the first reading, we can see that the messiah is prophesied as one who will bring the people together.
This shows love, care, concern and hospitality. To welcome Jesus, let us make peace with people and come back together again. Jesus will not come and stay in a broken home.
We need to make a way for Him. We do not do this with divided hearts, with lives immersed in hatred and enmity? No. The Messiah is a man of peace. We need to create a peaceful environment for Him.
4. Just like in the gospel, Mary showed hospitality to Elizabeth. She sets out immediately after the angelic announcement when she hears that Elizabeth is with a child. In the same way, this is the time we have to support others.
At Christmas, the Jesus we are celebrating is also the person living next door to you. To welcome Jesus, we have to settle those long-aged misunderstandings. We have to come back to God again. We have to decide to support others instead of destroying them. This is the Christmas. Christmas is love in practice.
Eager to Do His Will.
1. In the second reading, the author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us what Jesus says about His incarnation. He says
You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation,
prepared a body for me.
You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin;
then I said,
just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book,
‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’
Therefore, Jesus affirms that His coming to the world is to do the will of the Father. Sacrifices and holocausts do not give God any pleasure. What gives Him pleasure is the willing soul who is eager to do His will.
Therefore, the motivation behind Christmas is to make sure that the will of God is achieved.
Hence, the way to welcome Jesus is to make ourselves available for this. There is the need for that eagerness to do the will of God at all times and all costs.
Christmas is the time for Jesus. It is not a time of seeking personal satisfaction and pleasure. It is time to seek God with all our hearts.
2. In that little prophetic writing in the second reading, Jesus affirms that sacrifices and holocausts do not give God glory.
He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. “And this will be for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ”.
Therefore, this is the ultimate sacrifice which Jesus does by offering His body for the salvation of the world. He did this so that we shall be holy and blameless and before Him.
The Messiah, became incarnate in humanity to perform His priestly work of offering a sacrifice that would pay for sin. He did not offer animal sacrifices, but instead, He sacrifices His body. The point here is that deliverance from sin is not obtained by animal sacrifices, but by fulfilling God’s will.
3. Therefore, we have to be ready to do His will. We have to dedicate our body, our soul, our entire life to God.
To welcome Jesus, the Messiah, we have to offer up anything that will be a stumbling block to this encounter and be willing to welcome Jesus with a pure heart.
If we cannot sacrifice anything for someone we love, then it shows we do not truly love the person, therefore, if we truly love Jesus, we have to be willing to sacrifice ourselves entirely to have a glamorous spiritual encounter with Him.
Joy to Others.
1. During the annunciation of the Lord, the angel Gabriel tells the blessed virgin Mary that behold her cousin Elizabeth has already conceived a son in her old age.
This shows that Elizabeth and the Blessed Virgin Mary are related. Also, Mary’s visit immediately to Elizabeth affirms that there must be blood or a close relationship between both. This declaration in Luke 1:36 that Elizabeth is a relative of Mary comes from the angel Gabriel.
Despite that Elizabeth is from the tribe of Levi and Mary is from the tribe of Judah. Many scholars explain that it could be that Elizabeth and Mary are related through Elizabeth’s mother.
Elizabeth’s mother was of the Tribe of Judah but her father was of the Tribe of Levi. This relationship could be that the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Elizabeth are of the same father.
2. So, when the Blessed Virgin Mary heard that her cousin is pregnant, She set out immediately without wasting time to visit her.
The visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the house of Zechariah brought joy to Elizabeth first, who immediately exclaimed that who is she that the mother of the Lord would come to visit her ” we can see in this statement, sounds of joy and excitement. And immediately, She begins to bless the Virgin Mary.
Secondly, this visit brought Joy to the child who immediately leapt for Joy. It is quite mysterious how an unborn child could be aware of the visit of Mary. Therefore, this visit brought joy to the entire family.
In the same way, this is the time we have to bring joy to the lives of the people. To welcome Jesus truly, we have to make ourselves instruments of joy, peace, reconciliation and help to people at this time.
3. Mary brought to the family the highest gift in Jesus. This gift touched even an unborn child. So, this is the time we have to bring the highest gift which is Jesus to the people. To do this, we have to willingly save lives at this time.
Therefore, to welcome Jesus, this is the time we have to share gifts to the poor, the orphans, the sick, the suffering. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says that whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.
4. Therefore, this is not a time to show that we have arrived. This is not the time to prove how wealthy we are.
It is not a time to intimidate others. To welcome Jesus, we have to show love to the people around us, the poor, the sick, lonely, suffering and many in difficulties. As we prepare for Christmas, remember those who have nothing. They also need to be happy.
1. On this last Sunday of Advent, we are expected to give final touches to the preparation of the coming of Jesus. The Lord is already at the corner. It is now time for us to open the door of our hearts to Him.
Therefore, this means that we need to have that deep desire to do the will of the Father, as Jesus proclaims Himself when He was about to come into this world, as we learn in the second reading of today.
Therefore, this means that to welcome Jesus, we must possess deep hunger, fully eager, willing, and ready to welcome Jesus.
Then the question is “when Jesus comes, which place do we reserve for Him. When Jesus comes, how can we welcome Him? Are our hearts ready to have Jesus seated? Or occupied with guilt and immorality?
The hunger to welcome someone we love should be seen as Christmas approaches. This is the time to show how much we love Jesus.
2. The messiah who is coming is peace Himself. Before Jesus goes into agony, the first gift He gives to His disciples is peace, He says to them in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful”.
When He resurrected again, the first gift that He gave to the disciples was peace So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21).
Therefore, there is something supernatural about peace. Jesus dwells where there is peace. He is a man of peace.
Therefore, to welcome Jesus we need to prepare a home befitting for Him. This is the time to make peace with those in enmity with us. This is the time for families to settle their long-aged quarrels and misunderstanding.
3. Immediately, the Blessed Virgin Mary heard that Elizabeth Is pregnant, she did not waste a day, she set out immediately to visit her.
This is the spirit of Christmas. If we know we can be willing to offer a helping hand, we do not need to be begged.
We do not wait until they come and kneel before you before we help. Let us always be there to wipe away tears from the eyes of others.
We can see that Immediately Mary sets into the house, Elizabeth begins to bless her. Hence, we do not know the type of blessings we receive when we bring joy to others. The blessings are always enormous.
4. What is your plan as the season is approaching? Are you planning to hike the price of your goods or are you planning to ameliorate the plight of others?
Are we planning on how to exterminate the life of someone or are we planning to save? What is our plan? What we are planning to do at this time, in a way, has already summarized how close we are to God.
5. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth was the first to proclaim Mary, the mother of the Lord. Therefore, she acknowledges Mary through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as the Mother of the Lord.
In essence, the Holy Spirit through Elizabeth honoured Mary as the Mother of the Lord, she acknowledges her as the Blessed among all women.
This she says through the Holy Spirit, it means that if the Holy Spirit can honour the Blessed Virgin Mary, then we need to do the same.
We have to welcome her also as the mother of our saviour. And if she is the mother of our saviour, definitely she is our mother.
Therefore, as we prepare to welcome Jesus, let us also welcome his mother and take her as our mother as well.
6. The child that leapt for joy in the womb of Elizabeth is a phenomenon that cannot be explained even by any scientific endeavour. The child was happy to encounter Jesus through the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Therefore, there should be in us the joy of encountering the Lord at Christmas as well. The coming of Jesus should give us joy, not only because of the material gain but because of the hunger for having an encounter with Him.
Let the willingness and decision to go to confession, change, repent and come back to God give us joy this Christmas. Let us not see it as a burden.
As we get ready for other preparations, let us not forget that our soul needs to be taken care of too.
There is enormous joy in encountering the Lord. May He fill your life with enormous grace. Amen.