4th Sunday of Advent - Hope Reinforced

We approach Christmas with vivid, violent reminders of the evils caused in our society by selfishness, ruthless ambition, twisted hatred and the craze for power at every level.  This ugly drama is played out all over our world: in our homes and families, in the business community, in our politics, in the bitterness and irreconcilable differences among the peoples of the Middle East, in the mistrust found among nations and even in the lack of trust in church leadership.

But we are gathered as people of faith in a holy season of hope. The voice of fear is drowned out for us by the message of Advent: "Be strong, fear not! Here is your God!" Today's Gospel gives us the example of two who rose above their fears with absolute trust and confidence in God's love: Joseph and Mary. Both are told not to be afraid in the face of an uncertain future. Mary would humbly accept her role as Mother of the Word-Incarnate; Joseph would abandon traditional wisdom and take his beloved as his wife, despite rumors and the pointing of fingers.

And through this young couple, God would give a sign to the whole of history: the birth of a Child - Emmanuel, God-with-Us - who would put an end to our fears and bring calm to our hearts.

But the birth of this Child points to a much more universal mystery: God's irrevocable choice of our world - with all of its turmoil, fear and uncertainty - as the place where salvation happens; and the presence of Jesus, the Word made flesh, as the one who would finally unite the human family in a new community of freedom, justice and peace. 

He stands with all human beings who yearn for a radical change of heart and life, who crave liberation from the power of evil, who seek release from all forms of oppression - religious, political, social and economic. He stands as the only One who can take away our fear and make clear our vision.

It is Jesus who lives the message, challenging political and religious systems, embracing a radical poverty of spirit, and reaching out with compassion and liberation for all the oppressed.

It is He who stirs the profound longings in all of our hearts for true freedom, justice and peace - for ourselves, and for all of our brothers and sisters across the world. It is He who reinforces our Hope.  He invites us to commit ourselves more fully to these Gospel values. He begs us not to trivialize our resolve by being satisfied with token and occasional gestures of Christianity, and He invites us to rededicate ourselves to follow His example more faithfully, and to strive even more forcefully to eliminate the hoarding, climbing and controlling in our own lives and in the world at large.

The human family needs, as never before, to hear the message of Advent, to free us from our fears and to give us direction. But more than that, we need to recognize and respond to the constant invitation of Jesus, God-with-us, to join Him in a new world community of shared love, peace and justice.

The spirit of Advent and Christmas is a mirror in which we see reflected the very best that life can become. Through our faith and courage, we can help each other to put away our fears, to move from darkness to light, to begin to hear again the words of life. We can reach out to support - by the strength of our love and concern - those whose hands are feeble, whose knees are weak. Through our witness to God's love, so many who are crippled by doubt and despair might be able to leap again with courage and energy and new life.

So let's continue this mission each day of our lives; let's be "church," God's holy people, and faithful disciples of Jesus; let's be light in darkness, peacemakers and life-givers, in every aspect of our lives. Only then can the promise of Advent echo through our voices: "Rejoice! Don't be Afraid! Here is your God!"