Friday, 19 December 2008

4th Sunday of Advent - Year B

2 Samuel 7:1-5,8-12,14,16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

If God were to invite you to ask him for one gift which you could take along with you on the journey of life, through all the problems, challenges, joys, sorrows and unexpected difficulties you will most certainly encounter, what would it be? What would you ask for?

Well, there is one thing God promised to each man and woman he called into his service. He never asked them to do anything for him without making this promise. It was to be their greatest source of strength and encouragement and confidence and it would never fail them. It was a simple promise but an unimaginably great one.

To Isaac God said: Be sure that I am with you; I will keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this land, for I will not desert you... .

To Jacob God said: Go back to the land of your forefathers and to your kindred; and I will be with you.

To Joshua God said: As long as you live, no one shall be able to stand in your way; I will be with you as I was with Moses; I will not leave you or desert you.

To Gideon God said: I will be with you and you shall crush Midian as though it were a single man.

To Solomon God said: ...I will be with you and will build you as enduring a House as the one I built for David. I will give Israel to you.

When Moses objected to God that he was not the right man for the job of freeing the Hebrews from Egypt God said: I will be with you.

When they crossed the Sea and began their long trek through the wilderness God made it abundantly and repeatedly clear to the People that he was with them. He fed them with manna from heaven and brought forth water from the rock for them. He let it be known: I am with you.

The Hebrews carried a tent with them in the desert, the Tent of the Presence. It contained the Ark of the Covenant which signified that everywhere the People journeyed God was with them.
When the Hebrews entered the Promised Land and had to fight various savage tribes for possession of the land God said to them: I will be with you.

To Samuel, David, Jeremiah, Jonah, Daniel and so many others God said: Do not be afraid, I will be with you.

This was God's greatest promise, the greatest gift he could bestow - his own presence.

To Mary the Angel said: The Lord is with you.

Surely this is the secret of the celebration of Christmas that, in the coming of the infant Jesus in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, God comes as a man to be with us.

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, a name which means: God-is-with-us.

What did Jesus tell the disciples on the hill, after his resurrection, when he sent them out to preach the Gospel to every nation? I am with you always ... until the end of time.

My dear friends, in these last hours before the celebration of Christmas only one question remains. It is a crucial question. It has to do with us and where we are right now.

Do you remember what Jesus told us on the 1st Sunday of Advent? Stay awake!

Do you remember what John the Baptist's cry was on the 2nd Sunday of Advent? Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.

Do you remember on the 3rd Sunday of Advent how Jesus said: Happy is the man who does not lose faith in me?

We know that God is with us but an important question remains. Are we, are you, with God? Are we awake? Have we repented? Have we kept the faith?

Each one of us must ask himself or herself this question as we prepare for the celebration of God-with-us. If we are conscious that some sin stands between us and the Lord let us hasten to the confessional before the feast dawns so that when he comes he will find us in his friendship. And if our conscience cannot accuse us then let us raise our eyes to the heavens, let us feel the yearning in our hearts for the Saviour who is coming, and let us allow the knowledge of his love-filled presence to take from us all fear and apprehension, all anxiety about the future and ourselves. Our God is with us and we need not be afraid.

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