Fourth Sunday of Advent

“Behold, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel, which means: God is with us.”  All of the Old Testament points forward to the coming of Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  The line in our first reading from Isaiah is perhaps one of the most famous Old Testament prophecies concerning the Birth of the Lord but the Old Testament is full of prophecies that foreshadow the coming of Christ.  The advent of Our Savior was foretold from the beginning; immediately following the Fall of our First Parents God promised us a Redeemer.  Again and again throughout the Old Testament God renewed His promise until in the fullness of time He sent His Only Begotten Son to fulfill all that He had promised.

Many scholars believe that Saint Matthew wrote his Gospel to a Jewish audience.  The reason for this supposition is that Saint Matthew often alludes to Old Testament Scriptures in his Gospel and he seems to have taken for granted that his readers would be familiar with those allusions.  There are many places in his Gospel which are similar to what we heard in our Gospel reading this morning: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the Prophet.”  Saint Matthew wanted to show, in a particular way, how Jesus Christ fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament.  Our first reading is, of course, the place to which Saint Matthew was referring to in today’s Gospel.  The Prophet Isaiah lived several years before Christ, yet God spoke through him to foretell that Jesus would be born of a virgin.

The season of Advent is a time set aside for preparing our hearts for the coming of Our Savior.  For the past few Sundays, the Church has had us focus on the forerunner of the Lord, Saint John the Baptist and his message to prepare our hearts and make straight the path.  This Sunday, the Church turns our attention towards the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The time to celebrate the Birth of Our Savior draws near; today’s Gospel puts the Blessed Virgin, already with Child, before our mind’s eye for our meditation.  Mary, with the Child Jesus in her womb, is an image of that expectant hope that we are to have in our hearts.  All of the Old Testament Patriarchs and Prophets longed to see the coming of the One concealed in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  From the beginning, Mary was chosen to be the Mother of the One Who would come to crush the head of the ancient serpent and set us free from sin and death.  Mary took on a great mission when she said “yes” to God’s will for her life.  Through Mary, the Eternal Son of the Father, Who is equal and co-eternal with the Father, became a man and dwelt among us; the Child born of Mary truly is Emmanuel: God with us.

This season of Advent, which is quickly drawing to a close, is a time to prepare our hearts and to watch and wait with expectation.  It can be so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas in a merely materialistic way.  Many of us undoubtedly still have much that needs to be done in order to prepare for Christmas and those preparations for family celebrations are important.  We ought not forget, however, the most important part of preparing for Christmas: preparing our hearts.  May we not lose sight of the purpose that we celebrate Christmas in the first place.  Christmas is first and foremost the celebration of the Birth of Our Savior.  At Christmas we give gifts to one another as a reminder of the greatest gift ever given; the gift that God gave to the world: the gift of His Son.  Let us make use of the remainder of this Advent season to prepare our hearts and make room for Him Who is coming soon.  Let us, together with Mary, wait in joyful hope for the coming of Our Savior.  Amen.