Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 18, 2016
I celebrated a birthday last Sunday. It wasn’t a big one…but close…very, very close to a BIG one. Ironically, the day before, my favorite news source decided to make a big deal over the fact that the life expectancy in the U.S. had dropped for the first time in many years. Granted, it was just a fraction of a year. Still, it is moving in the wrong direction.
So I noticed that over the following day or two, I spent some extended time mirror gazing. I thought back over family history, taking some comfort in the fact that Mom is almost 92… stressing a bit about an uncle who died at 62. I even took my blood pressure. None of these things were bad in and of themselves. But as I began my reflection on the Readings for this final Sunday in Advent, it occurred to me that I had been hunting “for signs”. We all do it…look for signs…and then try to interpret them.
Our First Reading introduces a person who stands out …not only because he is not out looking for signs…but actually brushes aside God’s offer to guide him. He seems to think it will cause God too much trouble. Or, that it makes God mad to be constantly bombarded with requests of “signs”. Scripture scholars, however, debate his real motives. Some think Ahaz preferred not do things his own way rather than enjoying directions from above. This passage is especially fitting to our final week of Advent because, in spite of Ahaz’s attitude, and no matter what his motivate might have been, God described a sign that would be timeless… guiding, consoling and bringing peace and hope to those wise enough to notice.
The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and you shall name him Emmanuel!
The thing about signs is this. We might well be on the lookout for them, but more often than not, pass them right by. All too often we are blind to them. Or, we do not properly read them. It’s not unusual to willfully ignore signs, or deny the warning they bring. Yellow lights, blood sugar levels, credit card balances, uncommunicative teenagers… the list goes on and on of signs that go unheeded. Eventually, however, whether or not we are wise enough to read and react to them, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, the prediction of an authentic sign becomes reality.
And so it was with “The Sign” God sent through Isaiah. A child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, to a Virgin who has been pre-sanctified, so as to be a worthy tabernacle for The Eternal Word Who was to take flesh and walk among us. As the story of salvation unfolded, most were oblivious. Some in a murderous rage tried to prevent the prophecy from becoming reality. Others could not bring themselves to believe or to understand. A few responded to the signs that took different forms: a dream, a choir of angelic voices, a star rising in the east.
And so something began in a cave in Bethlehem which continues to reveal God’s plan to us to this present day. The only thing that has changed is that WE ARE THE SIGNS that Christ our Savior is born. We have been given “a dream” of a world of peace, justice and love. But it doesn’t come to us in our sleep. Rather it is intended to be lived out through us, during our waking hours, so that others can share the Good News!
There is still a choir singing…but those voices are not angelic. We are the voices that sing of the truth that God’s promise has been fulfilled with the birth of the Christ Child. And even as we sing GLORIA! we also sing… SOON AND VERY SOON WE ARE GOING TO SEE THE KING. We sing of that day when the Risen Christ will return in glory.
We don’t follow a star. We follow the Light of Christ, and we carry that Light with us into a darkness that is defeated each and every time we forgive someone…help someone in need…welcome the stranger in our midst…heal someone who is suffering or share the hope that have been placed within our hearts through the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s most perfect sign and assurance that every story has a happy ending!