22 Dec – 4th Sunday of Advent
Mary’s Child: The Emmanuel
God’s choice rested on the House of David which was to bring forth the Emmanuel, the God-with-us. But Mary’s Child was to belong to all the nations. We are one of those nations who, by God’s call, belong to Jesus Christ.
– The Sunday Missal
The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’
Then Isaiah said:
‘Listen now, House of David:
are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men
without trying the patience of my God, too?
The Lord himself, therefore,
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Immanuel,
a name which means “God-is-with-us.”’
From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus who has been called to be an apostle, and specially chosen to preach the Good News that God promised long ago through his prophets in the scriptures.
This news is about the Son of God who, according to the human nature he took was a descendant of David: it is about Jesus Christ our Lord who, in the order of the spirit, the spirit of holiness that was in him, was proclaimed Son of God in all his power through his resurrection from the dead. Through him we received grace and our apostolic mission to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name. You are one of these nations, and by his call belong to Jesus Christ. To you all, then, who are God’s beloved in Rome, called to be saints, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send grace and peace.
This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,
a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel
This year has flown by immensely quickly. I have hardly had time to pause to reflect on the year, and the sad truth is that when I think about the year, apart from my nuptials, what comes to mind are the not-so-great things that have happened. Yet in reflecting on the not-so-great things, I cannot help but also recall that in those times, God was with me.
I feel a bit like Ahaz in the first reading, when Judah was at the precipice of an invasion and its fate seemed certain. Upon hearing the news that the invaders’ troops were encamped nearby, Ahaz and his people “trembled as the trees of the forest tremble before the wind”. It reminds me very much of myself, of the numerous times when I have had to face my boss to explain issues or go through numbers. He can be intimidating at times, and often single-minded about what he wants. He is not always like that, but when he is, I do tremble inside just to have to meet with him.
Like Ahaz as well, sometimes I rely on my own “human” efforts to resolve my problems, not just at work, but in my personal life, and I forget that God wants me to trust in Him, that everything will be better. Often times, when things got too hard, I would find myself saying to God, “I can’t do this!” or I would question Him in my exasperation: “Why is this happening? What plans do You have for me? Why won’t You let me see it?” I am sure I am not the only one who goes through this. At some point in our lives, we must have said something along those lines to God. We must have felt the desolation, the loneliness, and the helplessness amidst our troubles.
The point of today’s readings is that in the craziness of our situations and the madness of things, we must not forget: God is with us. The name of Jesus, our Immanuel, means “God with us”. So every time we call out to Jesus in our desperation, He is already with us. God sent Ahaz a sign in the foretelling of Jesus’ birth to give him comfort in his fear. God told Ahaz that the child born of the virgin would be called Immanuel, “God with us”, to let him know that God was with him.
But let us not overlook the joyous moments as well, for if God is with us in the bad times, He will surely be with us in the good times. We rejoice with God, and give thanks for His help and salvation, no matter the blessing. It could be as simple as getting your numbers to tie, or something bigger like the birth of a child, God is with us and wants to celebrate these things too with us.
As we fast approach Christmas, let us reflect on the year and ask God to help us see that in every point of our lives, He was with us, and always will be.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: God, in our times of trouble, let us not be blinded by our own despair that we cannot see that You are standing next to us. As You reach out to us, help us too to reach out to You.
Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks for Your constant presence in our lives. Thank you for sharing everything with us.