December 18, 2016

A HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT – CYCLE “A” –  12/18/16  –  SMG

+  Pax et Bonum!    Peace and goodness to you this day!

This is a hectic and fearsome time of the year!  There are just so many different things that can go wrong the week before Christmas!  The Christmas presents can fail to arrive in time.  The car can break down.  All the needles can prematurely fall off the Christmas tree.  Uncle Mike’s sweater can be the wrong size.  You can put the wrong postage on the Christmas cards and they all come back to you!  The ham can get way over-cooked.  A string of lights can go out on your house.  We all know the perils of Christmas!  And they are many!  This last week of Advent especially is a time of much stress and worry.  And yet, as we come to Mass today, God is giving us a better way to finish up our season of Advent.  This does NOT have to be a time of great stress and worry!  In fact, our readings seem to indicate to us today that the coming of Jesus means that we no longer need to be afraid.  Our God is with us!  And that gives each one of us a strength that is beyond compare, no matter how stressful our lives may get at any time of the year!   Today we are given the answer to our stress and worries!

Take for example Joseph in our Gospel story today.  Joseph is a having a very stressful week!  The Archangel Gabriel comes to him in a dream to calm him down and take away his fears.  Even today, an unwed pregnancy raises eyebrows.  Two-thousand years ago, in a small town like Nazareth, where everyone knew everyone else’s business, it was much worse.  This was the kind of scandal can cause real problems.  How could Joseph continue to be with Mary, if she had already been with someone else?  And Mary says nothing in her own defense, but allows Joseph to draw his own conclusions.  She trusts that Joseph is not going to be afraid, but that he is going to have Faith!  Even St. Joseph’s own doubts are expressed in love, as all he wants is to keep the whole affair quiet, to protect both Mary and the Baby.  “Do not be afraid!”,   That’s all!  That’s Gabriel’s message!  With those four little words repeated over and over again by the Archangel Gabriel, our hope of Heaven was born.  Gabriel told Joseph to not give into these fears of what others might say, or think, or do.  Previously, Gabriel had spoken these similar words of reassurance to Zechariah, when he received word of John the Baptist’s conception.  And Gabriel would use these same words again, when announcing to Mary what God had planned.  “Do not be Afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!”  And again, after Jesus’ birth, these were the same words that would be used to beckon the shepherds to come in from the fields, to worship the newborn Christ in the crib.  “Do not be Afraid!”  God is with you!  Do you see a theme here?  Are you getting the message?  When things got crazy before the first Christmas, God’s message to Joseph, and Zechariah, and Mary, and even the shepherds was to “DO NOT BE AFRAID!”  Everybody got the same message!  And it was a good message!  They all needed to hear it!

Could it be, that this week, that that same message just happens to be exactly the message that we most need to hear from God?  We’ve got a lot to do this week!  We’re going to have people over, and guests and company, and we will be asked to be entertaining.  There’s going to be shopping, and wrapping, and gift-giving, and delivering and mailing.  Well, maybe it is too late for mailing!  But there’s going to be cooking, and cleaning, and decorating, all to celebrate the birthday of the Christ Child!  And it is going to be great!  But it is also going to be, at times, very stressful!  And that’s exactly when God asks us, just like Joseph, and Zechariah, and Mary, and the Shepherds, to “DO NOT BE AFRAID!”   We must stop worrying!  One of the whole points of Jesus’ birth was to bring us the peace that we need to live in this world, without getting all stressed out.  It is a new way of life!  It is a more peaceful way of life!

Do Not Be Afraid!  These words are spoken to us each time we face life’s challenges, difficult decisions, or even our own sinfulness.  We must trust these words.  They offer us a better way of life!  They can help us out this week before Christmas.  But they also can give us real Faith and help us out for the rest of our lives, with ALL our situations.  Let us not be afraid!  Christmas is coming and so is the Christ!  Let’s make this a peace-filled week without any fear or anxiety.  If Mary and Joseph could do the first Christmas without being afraid, we can get through this one!

May God bless us in this last week of Advent,   Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…                          AMEN !!!