Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Over the last several weeks of Advent we have been trying to find a pathway or direction that will lead us out of the old and into something new.

Many of our Advent pasts have led us to new and amazing places. Places we never even knew existed in the world around us or in our minds and hearts. That is what Advent is supposed to do. We are to be prepared for whatever God has in store for us. That’s the pretty traditional way of looking at Advent. Prepare for the one called “Emmanuel, God with us.”

Hopefully this Advent has not only been a time for us to prepare, but a clear understanding that we are ready, and have been ready all along to welcome the Messiah. Isaiah has said to us all along that something big is going to happen, trying to prepare us.

When we meet Isaiah for the first time this Advent he cries out “…in the days to come…” we will walk in the light of the Lord. Jesus echoes that in Matthew “So too you must be prepared.” When we hear from Isaiah the second time he indicates that a shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse, that holds: the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and delight, when we stand in awe of the Lord… also known as “the fear of the Lord”… not to be afraid, but in stand in awe at our awesome God.

When we meet John the Baptist, who in all our imaginings is something like we have never seen, he simply suggests: If you are unable to be transformed by my preaching and baptism, then BE PREPARED for the one who will come after me for I am not fit to even untie his sandal.

When we meet Isaiah the third time he tells us what it will be like… prepares us for things like the deserts blooming, the highlands blossoming, the mountains proclaiming “Glory;” eyes opened, ears cleared, the lame healed, tongues unleashed and singing. And then telling us that those not prepared will flee in
sorrow and mourning.

Today we meet Isaiah for the last time this Advent. Knowing King Ahaz is not prepared to meet the Lord

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, for he is a mean and horrible king, Isaiah tests him. He offers him absolutely ANYTHING God can give. Ahaz, knowing he is neither prepared nor ready to meet the Lord, comes up with the excuse that he will not tempt the Lord “I will not ask.” This can sound an awful lot like us. Ahaz says today, and we often say… “No thanks, I would rather do it on my own.” Isaiah says: “Enough!” If these people have not been prepared by now, it no longer matters… ready or not a sign will be given by the Lord himself. A virgin, a
child, a name: “Emmanuel, God with us.”

And now we meet St. Joseph. Because Joseph had been prepared by a life of faith and righteousness he is ready to face the trial of his life:

Mary, his betrothed, with Child by the Holy Spirit: prepared and ready to do God’s will.

Angels appearing to him in a dream: prepared and ready to be not afraid. The unique specialness of the child to come: prepared and ready to protect Mary and the Child.

To awake from his dream: prepared and ready to take his wife into his home. Joseph, a man we barely know, a person hardly mentioned in scripture, is the most ready of all to do God’s will. And the Church proclaims him:

 “Patron of the Universal Church”, “Patron of Workers” , St. Pope John Paul II called him “Guardian of the Redeemer”, the Catechism calls Saint Joseph the “Patron of a happy death” and Pope Francis calls him “the special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty”; and the “protector of the unfortunate, the needy, exiles, the afflicted, the poor and the dying” 

We have been asked if we are prepared.

That’s the pretty traditional way to look at Advent. Prepare for the one called “Emmanuel, God with us.”

Hopefully this Advent has not only been a time for us to prepare, but a clear understanding that we are ready to welcome the Messiah, the one who has been with us on our Advent journey all along.