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Mary and Joseph (in the Nativity Scene)

Homily for 4th Sunday of Advent 2016 AD


Church in the Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem

Christmas is really now in the air. The Christmas buzz all around us. The Christmas blitz and do’s all happening. It is really exciting.

But we need to ask ourselves: ‘How’s our preparation for Christmas?

We may have already the perfect plan for our Christmas lunch. We may have already wrapped the presents and put them under the tree. We may have already organized for our Christmas party.

But we can get caught with these external preparations while neglecting our spiritual preparation which is what is more important. If we are just caught up with all the busyness of Christmas’ do’s and not even giving to reflect what is this season all about and pray, then we just end up exhausted, drained and lose the plot of this special season in our faith.

I remember as a kid, my way of getting into the spirit of Christmas is to go on carolling with others kids in my neighbourhood to get some change for Christmas. One time, we went to this woman’s house and started singing. This woman was known to be grumpy and thrifty. Just as we started singing, I heard this voice from inside the house: ‘Go away you noisy brats! We are already sleeping in here. Don’t disturb us and the kids!

I thought: “If they were really sleeping, then why did she hear us? She must be dreaming of telling us off.”

I thought, she should have at least shown some consideration for us. It’s Christmas time first of all. Anyhow, we moved on. It’s amazing that yes generally gift-giving is one of the marks of Christmas spirit yet there are still people who refused to live up the spirit of Christmas.

But living up to the spirit of Christmas is more than just giving or receiving gifts. To experience the true Christmas joy is to realize that Christmas is not just about giving presents but being present (our presence). It is not just about giving cards, but showing that we care for one another. It is not just about fun with family and friends, but faith in and friendship with God. It is not just about shopping but worshipping the Emmanuel (the God-made-man). It is not just about something or some things, but someone. It is not just about kris kringle, it is about Christ.

And while waiting for the coming of Christ as part of our spiritual preparation for Christmas,  as symbolized by the empty manger, let us reflect on the different figures in our nativity scene.

We reflect on Mary and Joseph, simple and unassuming couple, yet both could attest that if God is welcomed in our lives, if God forms a big part in our families, great things can happen before us. Even if things may not be different as we hoped to be, but with God we can see things in a different perspective.

First we look at Mary. And each letter in Mary’s name means something for her and more so for us.

M– Mary is a model believer in humility, trust and fidelity to God even if at times things are difficult, hard to understand or even if at times things seem not make any sense at all.

A– means that Mary is always available for those in need. She went in haste to assist her elderly and pregnant cousin Elizabeth. Nazareth is about 150 kms from where Elizabeth lived. Then it would take Mary about a week or so walking to get where Elizabeth and Zechariah lived.

R– Mary is a real mother. She walked with Jesus her son, from the womb to the tomb. She never left her son’s side till the end.

Y– Mary’s attitude to God’s will is always ‘YES’ and she yearns for heaven.

Secondly we look at Joseph. The Gospel never records of Joseph having spoken a word. But as the saying goes: ‘Action speaks louder than words’. And St Joseph’s actions is indeed very loud and throws us a challenge to take God seriously in our lives.

J–  Just. The gospel describes him as a man of honour, a just man (doing what is right, just, proper and true). In Deuteronomy 22:20, the Jewish law says that if a woman is found to be with child before marriage, thus assumed to be no longer virgin before marriage, she is to be stoned to death in public. Joseph, as just man, wouldn’t want to break the law and he wouldn’t want put Mary into a public disgrace, shame and humiliation, so he decided to call the marriage off. A really good example of a just man- a person who does not only consider what the law says, but also consider how does the law affect the human person.

O– obedient to God’s will. As we have heard in the gospel, things were not that easy, or clear for Joseph at the beginning. In fact he wanted to get out of it. But this is amazing of our God. When we obey God’s will and commandments even if at times, we may find it hard to understand it, great things happen to us, amazing things happen right before us and we can appreciate more of the fact that God has chosen us personally to carry out his will not only for our good but for the good of others too.

S– silently yet faithfully doing his mission. The Church has survived for millenia now because of the many missionaries/Christians who were just silently carrying out their Christian duties day in and day out towards their families and communities. These are the people like Joseph who believed in this maxim: ‘It is better to have God approve than the world applaud.’

E– exceptional in keeping the Holy Family intact in the face of threats of it being destroyed by those in power. Our time now there are many things that break the families, or threaten to destroy the power of the families. Let us ask St Joseph to pray for us and our families we may stand up for whatever threats that come on our way.

P– prayerful, patience and persevering in overcoming trials and challenges that the Holy Family face. The Gospel tells us that the angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream. But this could be interpreted as happening in the context of prayer. He would have thought about it and prayed about it.

H– a humble husband and a man of hope. Humility means keeping our feet on the ground and true to our selves. Hope means and I like this: ‘Hang On, Pain Ends’.

Today, let us resolve to keep up with our spiritual preparation for Christmas learning from Joseph and Mary, in their humility, trust, obedience to God’s will, and faithfulness in their mission in life. Let this be our prayer. Amen.


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