Sunday December 22nd, 2019 The Fourth Sunday of Advent (Cycle A)

Psalm 24:1-6, Isaiah 7:10-14, Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-24

How would you feel if you could pick a miracle? What would it be? Nuclear disarmament? A cure for cancer? The end of hunger? The choices are endless!  In our reading in Isaiah 7:10-14, that’s exactly the opportunity that God Almighty gives to King Ahaz. Can you imagine? It’s a chance of a lifetime, but Ahaz has such contempt for Jehovah that he takes a pass on the offer in the most hypocritically pious manner…not a smart thing to do. An angry and fed up God responds, “All right, I’ll do it myself! Try this one on for size: a virgin will bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel, because that baby is going to be Me!”  Wow! Didn’t see that one coming!

How would you feel if a miracle happened to you? Not so fast, miracles come with problems all their own. Check out our reading in Matthew 1:18-24.

“C’mon, Mary! Do you really expect me to believe…?” She could hear the hurt and disappointment in his voice. Mary, anguished and frustrated over Joseph’s skepticism, breaks down in tears as she repeats her angelic visitation alibi, to no avail. As far as he’s concerned, she’s a pregnant adulteress under a death penalty. Their engagement is broken. Joseph heads for home where he tries to come up with a plan to send Mary away secretly…for her sake. Exhaustion overtakes him. The angel of the Lord appears in his dream. He reminds Joseph of our old friend, King Ahaz and backs up Mary’s story by playing the Isaiah 7:14 card: “The virgin shall have a son and call His name Immanuel.” Joseph wakes up with a better understanding and takes Mary as his wife. It’s all good, but the road for the Holy Family will get bumpy again. Her miracle has other prophesies tied to it: a long journey with manger accommodations in Bethlehem, a touch and go escape to Egypt, the mental anguish of the slaughtered innocents, not to mention a sword coming toward her heart. Yes, miracles at times aren’t what they’re cracked up to be, but then again, Mary wouldn’t give hers up for the world.

Our reading in Romans 1:1-7 opens by establishing Jesus’ credentials through prophesy, the incarnation, and His resurrection. The Apostle Paul is entrusted with spreading the gospel to the Gentiles. His message: Christ’s sacrifice on the cross provided a relationship of grace, peace, and love with God and with each other by the forgiveness of our sins. Through his work, churches were established. These believers knew their Lord, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10).  They took up the mantle of the Apostles and engaged their society with the counterculture claims of God’s love. The miracle of the life changing power of the gospel turned their world upside down for Jesus.

Our last reading is Psalm 24:1-6, presents the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth and asks the question, “Who can live in God’s house?” Only the holy…none of us are. God does offer us the miracle of Salvation through Jesus Christ.  If you were the only person on earth who ever needed forgiveness for sin, God would still have become a man, the virgin would still have given birth to a son, and the Apostles would still have evangelized. Everything would have been done for you and you alone. It’s your miracle to accept! In this fourth Sunday of Advent, we celebrate our last week before Christmas.  There is no better time to embrace the Christ child in the manger and claim Him as your Savior and Lord. If you have been lax on your commitment to God, now is the time to confess your sins and renew your purpose to live for Him. Take the Lord’s gift to you this Christmas. The heavens will rejoice again, as they did on that one holy night. May the grace, peace, and love of God flood your heart this season of miracles. Merry Christmas!

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