Homily for December 18, IV Sunday of Advent, cycle B
For weeks now, we have been flooded with the secular side of Christmas, on the radio, on television, and in stores. By contrast, the Church’s liturgy has been taking us on the more subdued journey of Advent, reviewing the many prophecies that foretold the Lord’s coming and inviting us to prepare for Christmas and for Jesus’ eventual second coming.
Now that Christmas really is just around the corner, the readings at Mass start to talk more directly about the Lord’s birth. Yesterday’s Gospel reading included the genealogy of the Lord; in today’s Gospel, we hear Luke’s account of the Annunciation. The angel Gabriel comes to Mary and she accepts the gift and responsibility of being the Mother of the Redeemer. At that moment, God becomes a human being in Mary’s womb.
Here, it’s helpful for us to look back to the first reading. David has become the king of Israel, and he realizes that he has built a palace for himself, but nothing to house the Ark of the Covenant, which was the focal point of God’s presence with His Chosen People. He proposes to build a Temple to be like God’s house on earth. God’s answer through the prophet Nathan is very interesting: He says that instead of David building a physical building to house the Lord’s presence, God Himself will establish a “house” for David, meaning a continuation of David’s family and kingdom for all eternity. It is somewhat implied that this house of David will be God’s house too.
This prophecy is fulfilled in the Gospel. Jesus was a descendant of David through Mary, and He is the very real presence of God among us. He lives forever, and His kingdom has no end. David’s son Solomon constructed a Temple building after David’s death, but when Jesus confronted the religious leaders in the Temple, He referred to His own body as the Temple of God, which He would raise up again after it was destroyed by His Passion and Death.
Through Baptism and the Eucharist, each one of us receives God into our hearts. Each one of us, says St. Paul, is a Temple of the Holy Spirit, and we are members of the Church, forming one holy House of God.
Christmas, then, is the unveiling of the true and eternal Temple, which is Jesus Christ. He draws our humanity, with all its limitations, into the mystery of His Divinity. God is truly among us and in us if we keep God’s grace alive in our hearts.
This Christmas, even as we will see the figure of Jesus in the manger scene, let us remember to turn to the people around us, and see them as Temples of God. The Christ Child who is represented by those plaster or plastic figures is really present in our our siblings, our spouses, our children, and in the stranger on the street. He taught us that He is present in a special way in those who receive Him in Holy Communion, but He also said that whatever we do to those most in need, we do to Him.
It’s great to see how the parish has responded to the needs of the poor through donations of toys and support of the St. Vincent de Paul society. May we all have that same attitude in all our actions throughout the Christmas season, which offers us many opportunities to be generous and loving in other ways. There may be moments when our nerves are frazzled by the busy-ness of Christmas shopping, cooking, traveling, or hosting travelers. There can be friction with family members and acquaintances when we all get together, and old disagreements or grudges or personality conflicts resurface. That’s when we need to see the Child Jesus in everyone, and react with love, patience, forgiveness, and self-giving. May He Who gave Himself to each of Us, help us to give ourselves to each other.