Fourth Sunday of Advent: “Proclamation of Immanuel”
Isaiah 7: 10-17
Psalm 80: 1-7; 17-19
Romans 1: 1-7
We are here to know God and to make Him known. For the four Sundays in Advent, we have used the Decalogue, which is the Ten Commandments, reminding us of God’s Law. There is pattern where the first four Laws are about our relationship with God; our worship. The rest of the Laws is about our relationship with our fellow-man; justice. Thus, Commandments are about worship and justice. It is cruciform – worship, which is vertical; and justice, which is horizontal.
The Summary of the Law also has this pattern. Learn to worship and learn to do justice with our fellow man. Our Church’s vision has also this pattern. To know God, a vertical relationship, and to make Him known, which is a horizontal relationship. The kingdom of God is a worshipful and a just society. The prophets taught this to remind us and to remind us of these two things.
To know God is eternal life. This is why we administer sacraments. This is why we preach and we do ministry. All of these are to make God known to the people, and so that the people will know Him because to know God is eternal life. Knowing God is not mental but participatory; it is experiential. A song verse says, “Unless you feel it, I can’t reveal it.” We’ve got to have it happen to us to know how it feels. We have to be participating in order for us to experience it.
Our thrust this 2020 are these three things: righteously living, actively serving, and generously giving. We involve ourselves in these in order to participate and to experience eternal life. Honestly, why do have to do these three things? There is a need in the Church – in the ministries, in the finances, but there is a need in us, first, to participate in the work of God so that we can know Him. We cannot know from afar or just by reading His Word. We need to be in the relationship.
If we see our activities as a burden, something that is unnecessary, or an obligation that we need to get over with, then, we are missing the point. We participate in the life of God because only this life has meaning. If other things are our priority, again, we are missing the point. We ask, “Why Christmas?” Is it to attend parties? To receive bonuses? Is it to get something? Is it to accumulate things? Is this how we see Christmas? If we do, we are just like children who are only after the gifts they will receive.
The prevailing spirit is: what can I get this Christmas? It is not about what we can get. Jesus came because we needed something very badly. We needed to live because we were dying, so Jesus gave His life, so what more can He give?
In the gospel, the angel said to Joseph, “Behold, the virgin shall be with a child. Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. You shall name Him Jesus because His Name means ‘God saves’. He will save His people from their sins.” What are we saved from? Who is saved? “Save” doesn’t mean we are going to heaven and not hell when we die. According to the angel, Jesus was to be named as such because He will save His people from their sins. Our desire is to be saved from our sins. What are we saved from? What are we saved to? We are saved from sin. Sin is missing the mark and the mark is God’s image and likeness. If God is a Giver and compassionate God, and if we are not like Him, then, we sin.
In Acts 2, Peter said in his sermon during Pentecost, “Be saved from this perverse (deviated) generation.” We need to go back to the right path. We are saved to display the likeness of God, which is the only way life has meaning and has fulfillment. Jesus is the exact representation of the Father – the perfect God and the perfect man. What we see in Jesus is the Godhead. Jesus says, “Follow Me. Imitate Me.”
The word Christian was first used in Antioch, where those who were called Christians were persecuted because Christ, who was their leader, was considered a criminal at that time who was nailed to the cross. A Christian then was diminutive, but the Christians in Antioch were proud to be called one because they were the ‘little Christ.’ They were not insulted, but they were flattered to be called Christians. They loved it when they were called Christians. It should elate us when we are called ‘little Christ’ because we copy Christ’s image.
The whole point is to follow Christ and to imitate Him because He is a perfect God and a perfect man.
Jesus not only shows who God is but what man is to be like. This is why God, in Christ, became man to be one of us and to be with us. Thus, it is really good news to say that God is with us but we forget this.
No man is an island. No man has to go through life alone. There is good news: Immanuel; God is with us. We don’t need to go through life, with its tests and trials, alone. We have help, actually more than help, because we have God with us. Let us not forget that the Lord is with us. People forget this and this is the reason people’s lives become miserable. Depression is caused by people forgetting who God is or they do not know that God is with them. Sadly, depression comes to a point where people end their lives. This is a very real and serious issue today in our society. Fame or money is not the answer to one’s tests and trials in life. God designed us to have an empty space inside of us that only He can fill. We try to fill that empty space with many things that the world pursues, and we do it in vain.
We don’t have to be alone. We cannot be alone. Jesus said, “Fear not, I have overcome the world. Greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world.” Do we realize who is with us? Do we take Him for granted? Jesus rebuked His generation and told them, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment and will condemn this generation because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. Behold, someone greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise up at the judgment and will condemn this generation because she travelled far to hear and to see the wisdom of Solomon, and yet, someone greater is here and you take him for granted.”
One time, I was in a coffee shop with three bishops. I ordered coffee for all of us, and the barista asked what name should I put to identify my order. I told him, “Piolo” (a well-known actor). The barista smiled and he wrote that name and played along with me. When my order was ready, what he did was to call out the name aloud so that everyone in the coffee shop could hear it, “Four Americanos for Piolo!” I saw one customer stop working at his laptop and looked up. Others stopped looking at their gadgets and those in conversation stopped to check who it was that was being called. They thought it was the real Piolo Pascual. The point is we turn to prince and princess and the powerful, the rich, and the celebrities who we think will be able to help us solve our problems. No! Someone greater is here! Immanuel! We take Him for granted sometimes. We passed Him by sometimes. We ignore Him sometimes. Sometimes, He is already knocking at our hearts, and yet we ignore Him when He is the answer to our problems and to all of the world’s problems.
God is with us! Someone greater than Jonah, Solomon, or Piolo is here! This is good news! The good news is that we are exempt from life’s storms, but God is with us and greater is He who is in us, and with us that can help us face our challenges and our problems.
Are we like those in the coffee shop who are ready to drop everything we are doing when we hear the Name above all Names? When we hear His Name, what do we do? Do we shrug Him off and say, “That is just the Lord. He is always there. I will listen to Him later.” Or do we drop everything and pay attention to what He has to say? Can we even just look and behold His face? Do we realize how much we need Him? Do we realize how much He gave and how thankful we are for what He has done”
Jesus is more than our Help and more than our Advocate. He is not just with us. He became one of us. God in Christ became flesh and blood. He is our “kadugo, kauri, kapuso, kapamilya, kapatid.” One song says, “What if God was one of us?” He is one of us! He became human so that He can empathize with us, though not a slob like one of us. Our war is His war. Our problem is His problem. He took on humanity in order to heal humanity.
Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT says, “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” Jesus became human so that He can put a stop or an end to death that kills us so that he can free those who are enslaved to fear of death. It is not God's will for anyone to die. When He created us, He did not introduce death in the world. Death entered through sin, and God gave His life so that we can have life and avoid death, and this tells us that death is not His will, but life is. If death is His will, why did He die to bring life to us?
This is who God is! This is the image and likeness of God that we are to imitate and to participate in. This is how we will have a meaningful Christmas, a meaning and eternal abundant life and the joy of the Lord! This is simply the way it is in the kingdom of our God.