Fourth Sunday of Advent

Is 7:10-14; Rom 1:1-7; Mt 1:18-24 (year a)

The Fourth Sunday of Advent brings us to Mary and the imminent birth of her Son Jesus. If we reach beyond the familiar story, it is an invitation to expect the unexpected; to expect a graciousness beyond our imagining. Are we prepared for the unexpected, or do we continue life’s daily routine without any real expectation that anything might change in our lives?

This was certainly the case for Judah’s King Ahaz in 8th-century BC Jerusalem. This wheeler-dealer sought to hang on to power through a questionable foreign alliance, the last desperate resort of a worried man. He had no appetite for what God might bring about in his Kingdom. It is therefore scarcely surprising that he refused to listen to the prophet Ahaz, and, with false humility, rejected his promised sign: “I will not put the Lord to the test.”

It is easy to dismiss the faithlessness of Ahaz, but we should not do so without seriously considering the extent to which we truly give God a chance to change our lives.

The sign, resolutely asserted by the prophet, was truly unexpected. Salvation, when it came, would come not from the great and the powerful, but through a simple maiden who would be with child. She would give birth to a son whose name would be Emmanuel, “God is with us”.

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