The true meaning of Christmas is revealed when we embrace Jesus
By Tim Irwin
Fourth Sunday of Advent/Dec. 20
2 Samuel 7:1-5,8b-12,14a,16; Psalm 89:2-3,4-5,27,29; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-28
Jesus poses two key questions to his followers. The first is: “Who do you say I am?” The Church proclaims its answer in readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The first reading from the Second Book of Samuel testifies to the Church’s belief that God will raise up a Messiah from the descendants of David: “I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”
The second reading comes from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The reading consists of 73 words, the first 72 words being one sentence and the 73rd word, “Amen,” being the second sentence. Paul has a knack for creating great conglomerations of clauses. Do you remember diagramming sentences in grade school? I wonder if people in Purgatory might have to diagram some of the stupendous sentences from St. Paul’s letters.
St. Paul has a knack for illustrating what happens to a person when they embrace Christ. They become their true and best selves. The Church recognizes the people who embrace Christ and become their best selves — they’re called saints.
St. Paul also has a knack for illustrating what happens to a person when they embrace Christ. They become their true and best selves. The Church recognizes the people who embrace Christ and become their best selves — they’re called saints. This is possible because of who Jesus is and that is explained in this Sunday’s Gospel reading from St. Luke: “And the angel said to her in reply, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.’”
The Church echoes Gabriel as it proclaims Jesus is the Son of God. That answers the question that Jesus posed to the apostles: “Who do you say I am?” Peter, speaking on behalf of the Church, nailed it. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
The Risen Jesus later posed another question to St. Peter, who had returned to the life of a fisherman after the death of Jesus: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus called him Simon, his name back when he was a fisherman, before he proclaimed his belief that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is asking, “Are you more committed to building the Kingdom of God than to your family, friends, and career?” We might apply that same question to ourselves. Are we more committed to family, friends, and career or the Kingdom of God?
You might be thinking, “Are we not supposed to be committed to our families, friends, and career?” Of course we are, but not instead of Jesus; rather because of our commitment to Jesus. When we commit to family, friends, career or anything else because of our commitment to Jesus we manifest in some small way the Kingdom of God.
It can be a challenge to love others because of our love for Jesus; it’s not easily and automatically done. “Do you love me more than these?” That seems like that would be a good question for us to contemplate during Lent.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves. In this final week of Advent consider, if you will, the first question Jesus poses to his disciples: “Who do you say I am?” Perhaps, like the saints, we can echo Peter and say, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” To embrace Jesus, true God and true man, is to find the real meaning of Christmas. Then, through prayer, sacrament, and service, we might in time realize our saintly potential just as completely as our faith, hope and love will permit.
Tim Irwin theology and philosophy at Notre Dame High School in Peoria. He is a member of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Morton.