God's promise is fulfilled and offered to all
The Feast of the Nativity of the Lord is such GOOD NEWS that its message pervades the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. It is as though the Church wishes to anticipate full-throated and unsparingly the joy of Christmas.
In the reading from Isaiah we hear Yahweh invite King Ahaz to ask for a sign. He declines to test Yahweh in such a manner, but Yahweh still reveals His promise: “the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel.” The Church understands this text from Isaiah as prophetic word regarding Mary, spouse of Joseph, giving birth to Jesus, whom we believe to be the Son of God. God is always faithful to his promises, inviting our implicit trust.
Isaiah writes of the promise given to the Jews. St. Paul writes to non-Jews, the Romans, about Jesus who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God with the spirit of holiness through His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. In corresponding with the Romans, St. Paul acts on God’s message that salvation is for all – Jews and non-Jews alike.
In the Gospel reading from Matthew we hear about the Incarnation from Joseph’s perspective. What a dilemma he faces when he learns that his betrothed is pregnant! However, he acts on God’s word to him in his dream, and takes Mary into his home. As directed, Joseph names his son “Jesus” which means “God saves,” thus fulfilling the words spoken through the prophet Isaiah that we heard in the first reading. Both Mary and Joseph, guided by the Holy Spirit, trust God to take care of them as they parent God’s only Son.
In these last days before Christmas we might pray for God’s grace in the words of the collect for this Fourth Sunday. It is the Angelus prayer that the Church offers three times daily in honor of the Incarnation:
Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of his Resurrection. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen