Homily for fourth sunday of advent, year A

pregnant-maryToday is the last Sunday of advent, Christmas is here already as the prophet Isaiah said that the maiden is with a child and will soon give birth to a son. He spoke this prophesy when king Ahaz and the whole kingdom of Judah were been terrorized, when they lived in fear of been conquered by their enemies. The prophet Isaiah encouraged the king not to lose heart, not to be afraid but to put his trust in God. The prophet encouraged king Ahaz to ask for a sign from God, but the king refused. So, the prophet says, The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign. It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel, a name which means God-is-with-us.

Christmas therefore is a celebration of hope. As the news about the maiden who was with child reassured king Ahaz and the kingdom of Judah of the Lord’s readiness to save them, so also Christmas should remind us and reassure us of God’s presence in our world no matter how evil the world has become. Some of us may be afraid of so many things; some are afraid of their health, some are afraid of the future and some cannot even tell exactly what they are afraid of. But like the prophet told king Ahaz, let us also learn to put our trust in the Lord.

The maiden that was with child is Mary, and the child is Jesus Christ the ultimate fulfilment of the prophecies of old and the hope of all nations. Matthew tells us how Jesus came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they came to live as husband and wife, Mary was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. The conception of Jesus remains a mystery just as it was to Joseph; Joseph could not really understand and so he wanted to quietly disassociated himself from everything that has to do with the conception, he planned to devoice Mary quietly. But the angel of the Lord said to him, Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. When king Ahaz was afraid of his enemies, the prophet encouraged him not be afraid for a maiden is with a child. A child who will crush the head of the serpent, a child who will fight the enemies of Judah and a child who will restore the glory of all believers.

The same kind of message king Ahaz received through the prophet Isaiah is what Joseph received from the angel Gabriel; the same encouragement. The angel Gabriel encouraged Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary home as a wife just as Isaiah encouraged king Ahaz not to be afraid but trust God. The angel tells Joseph not to be afraid because the child is of the Holy Spirit.

Fear, therefor is not one of the characteristics of Christmas people, it is not a characteristic of one who puts his trust in God. Fear is a satanic strategy to discourage and destroy the children of God, the devil puts fear into people to stop them from walking in the freedom of God, to make them live like slaves even though they are freeborn. St. Paul says; So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir through God (Gal. 4:7). And St. Paul also tells us that we did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!  Rom. 8:15.

The devil can use fear against us in such a way that we begin to feel like  slaves, we become so scared to even claim our rights as Sons and daughters of God; that was what happened to the spies Moses sent to spy the land of Canaan. God had promised to give the land to the people of Israel, to resettle them in that particular land. But to possess that land they needed to fight, so God ordered Moses to send some men to spy the land in order to strategies on how to take possession of it (Num. 13:1-24). It was a promised land, God had promised to give it to the Israelites, so the battle was of the Lord.

The spies returned and terrified the people of Israel with their report. They reported that the land was fertile, flowing with milk and horny but impossible for them to possess because of the powers of those who dwelt on the land. The spies gave reasons why it is very impossible for them to possess the Land that the Lord had given to their fathers; it was all because of fear. They became afraid of the people that dwelt on the land, they almost gave up on their possession because of fear. But thank God for Caleb, one of the spies who was not afraid. Caleb insisted that the land is theirs, it is the Lord’s gift to them. At the end they were able to possess it.

That is exactly what the devil does with fear; he puts fear into us to make us even afraid to pray, to possess our possessions in Christ Jesus. King Ahab was told not to be afraid because the maiden is with a child, it is that same child we are preparing to commemorate his birth. Like King Ahab therefore, we are reminded not to be afraid even if we are surrounded by enemies; the battle is the Lord’s. As we therefore prepare to commemorate the birth of Jesus the Lord, let us celebrate with the hope of heaven, let our hopes in Christ be enkindled and lets look forward to better days and years ahead.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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