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When I was a very small child, we lived in a house that had window sills which were just above my sight line. I remember having to stand on my tiptoes to see out. This was especially challenging when we were expecting company, because I could only stay on my tiptoes a few minutes at a time. This memory came back to me when I read our Gospel this Sunday. I say this because this weekend we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and in our Gospel this weekend we read “how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.” Clearly this Gospel calls us to be on “tiptoes of expectation” as we enter the last week before we celebrate the birth of Christ.
Specifically this Gospel tells the story of how Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, and that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary you wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” In addition to telling us that Jesus conception was of divine origin, this Gospel also reminds us that God is not limited in the way God communicates with us. God can speak to us in our thoughts, through the movements of our hearts and spirits, through the people and events of our lives, and even through our dreams. If we are open to it, God has much to say to us.
In our first reading this Sunday we read from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. In this reading God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, invites the feckless King Ahaz to ask for a sign that he might remember and trust in God’s faithfulness. Ahaz declines, but God offers a sign anyway. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the beginning of the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans. In it Paul reminds the people that he has been “called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- When have you felt God “communicating” with you? Was it in your prayer, through other people, through the events of your life, through a dream or?
- Ahaz didn’t want to tempt God by asking for a sign, yet God gave him a sign anyway. Has God ever offered you a sign?
- What do you need to do this last week of Advent to prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ?