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Fourth Sunday of Advent

Fourth Sunday of Advent

A missionary friend of mine who worked in the Philippines tells me that when he traveled from mission to mission, the people would not allow him to travel alone. They would ask, “Who is your companion?” Hello, I’m Father Greg Friedman, and this is the “Sunday Soundbite” for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Philippine culture, my friend tells me, is very relational. It places a high value on people being together, doing things together—even something as simple as traveling from place to place.

Our American culture, on the other hand, values independence and rugged individualism. “Going it alone” can earn you praise in some situations. But there are dangers if such an attitude is taken to extreme. The Philippine culture offers us a healthy alternative, as do today’s scriptural readings.

The Scriptures from this Sunday before Christmas focus directly on the mystery of who Jesus Christ is. In both the first reading and the Gospel, we hear the word Emmanuel—God with us. Isaiah the prophet warns King Ahaz not to turn his back on God’s intervention on behalf of the people; God wants to “be with us.” That divine intervention becomes personal in Jesus Christ, as the very human story of Joseph and Mary, from Matthew’s infancy narrative, makes clear.

In this Christmas season, when we naturally turn to one another at work, in families and even on the street to wish greetings of peace and happiness, there are sure to be those who feel alone or abandoned. In the midst of our celebrations, the central message is “God with us.” Emmanuel is God’s gift of relationship. Let us be generous in sharing that gift with others.