Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 22, 2019
A former Franciscan missionary in the Philippines once told 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?” Filipino culture, my friend said, is very relational—it values people being together, doing things together—even something as simple as traveling from place to place.
American culture on the other hand values independence and rugged individualism. But there are dangers when we take such an attitude to extreme. Like the Filipino culture, today’s Scripture readings offer us a healthy alternative.
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 in Matthew’s Gospel makes clear. That presence of God with us is at the very heart of the Christmas celebration.
At Christmastime we naturally turn to one another at work, at home, and even on the street to wish greetings of peace and happiness. But there are also those who feel alone or abandoned. The central message of this season is Emmanuel–“God with us.” Let’s be generous in sharing God’s gift of relationship with others.