4th Sunday of Advent – The Birth of Joy to the World!


In this last Sunday of Advent, we might anticipate the Nativity of the Lord and let it take up all our attention. The prophet Micah recalls the promise of greatness to the least of the tribes of Israel, giving hope to all the least of us who are downtrodden and oppressed. Likewise, the psalmist implores God to give us the grace and the right attitude to acknowledge the goodness of the Lord. We hear of God’s strength and intimate care for us, and his infinite patience for us, his children, reminding us of the fortuitous and envious position we are in amongst forces beyond our control.


Rather than parents waiting for a newborn, we might as well be the infants who are crying out for the attention of the parent. However, most of us are no longer infants, and as Christians, we have a responsibility to be all that we can be in this life. Perhaps nothing encapsulates that fullness of grace as being a parent. Yet our own experience and those vicariously witnessed amongst our families and friends suggests that such heartfelt grace can be beyond one’s imagination when parenting.

Parents can be all over the place waiting for the imminent arrival of their newborn child just days away. Can this newborn infant easily find a place in your family? Are you ever ready for a new addition to your family? Are there supplies for the new-born? Have we thought of a name? A great and happy occasion is nearly here. Do we have such feelings of anticipation and uncontainable joy?


Newborns typically herald changes happening or anticipated, and bring a whole lot more drama in one's life. Emotions can run high. To welcome and cherish this newborn, joy bubbling and flowing over into our mundane, almost indifferent life. Or, those emotions could be more complicated. Is there an erasure of a life or career, permanent loss of a possibility, a dream sealed away by the jaws of time?

As unfortunate as the complex and varied responses a newborn brings into our lives, anticipating the newborn Jesus, God's only begotten son, is not any less complex than our modern lives. Perhaps there is still time to recollect ourselves and prepare the way for the Lord's coming. We would do well to follow what St John the Baptist regularly tells us to: repent and make straight the way of the Lord.

Repentance is not about feeling guilty for the sins committed or actions omitted. Repent, from the original Greek word metanoia, is about going beyond our imagination, imagination conditioned by our everyday lives. Part of going beyond our imagination, our daily lives, is to remember the future promise to us by God, especially Jesus' compassion in dealing with us. For are not these things typically beyond our imagination in the moments of our daily rising and falling?


Thus, appropriately, to help us go beyond our imagination, the prophets and St Paul play an important part by helping us remember God's message of salvation, to give us everlasting life, to drink from waters offered by Jesus and never be thirsty again, to be moved by our petitions such that Jesus' mission becomes more inclusive and expansive. Our hopes and dreams are revived as God's goodness becomes real in this moment of our lives once more, through these remembrances.


Likewise, we would also do well to remember the times when the impossible, the peculiar, the unimaginable happened to us, and God willed good for us. These real experiences help us remember the times when God was with us, specifically, personally, intimately. And here is Jesus once more. coming again to look for a space in our hearts and lives.


Never mind if we do not know how to live as serfs to a king, grateful for the patronage of that king. Never mind if we do not seem to know and understand how the very gift of water that never runs dry is a profound gift of everlasting life. Do we know how a newborn upends our lives, and brings irrevocable changes? If we do, then let yourself repent and receive our Lord once more, as we are the Advent people, the community that receives the Eucharist, and hence, the Lord.


Let us make straight the way of the Lord, as followers of Christ, and not contort our values and “creatively” interpret of our lived experiences. Let us transparently live the values of Jesus Christ. Ask yourself: why do I need this; why do I do this; why do I avoid doing something; what do I actually want even as I give; what makes me happy, joyful, or sad; and how do I live with difficulties and challenges.

We are not called to be masochists, enduring pain just for pain’s sake. Even Jesus shed bloody sweats thinking of the ordeal about to fall upon him. Yet he did his Father’s work because he loved us so. May these last few days of Advent help us do what we need to do, and to better know, otherwise.

MICHAEL PHUNG

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