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Homily for fourth sunday of advent, year A

16 Dec 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

pregnant-maryToday is the last Sunday of Advent; Christmas is here already, as the prophet Isaiah prophesized in our first reading this morning; the maiden is with a child and will soon give birth to a son. This prophecy came when king Ahaz and the whole kingdom of Judah were terrorized when they lived in fear of been conquered. The prophet Isaiah encouraged the king never to lose heart but to put his trust in God. King Ahaz was encouraged 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; our health, our 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 with a child is Mary, and the child is Jesus Christ, the ultimate fulfillment 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; he could really not comprehend exactly what was happening; they were all happening too fast. He decided to quietly disassociate himself from everything that has to do with the mystery 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 strengthened his courage to be afraid, for a maiden is with a child. A child who will fight and crush the head of the serpent and give victory to Israel and all believers.

Similarly, Joseph was encouraged by the angel Gabriel not to give up or walk away; he was encouraged not to be afraid but to take Mary home as a wife; the child to be born is of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, fear is not one of the Christmas people’s characteristics; 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 we have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!  Rom. 8:15.

Fear is used against us; it is used to create the feeling of ben reduced to slaves, too scared to claim what’s rightfully ours as Sons and daughters of God. Remember what happened to the spies Moses sent to spy the land of Canaan? God had promised to give Canaan the land to the people of Israel, but to possess that land, they needed to fight, so Moses sends some men to spy on the land to strategize (Num. 13:1-24). It was a promised land; God had promised to give it to the Israelites; it was the Lord’s battle.

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 they thought they couldn’t 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 let fear force them to give up on their possession. But thank God for Caleb, one of the spies who were bold enough. Caleb insisted that the land is theirs; it is the Lord’s gift to them.

Fear is a weapon in the enemy’s hands; King Ahab was encouraged not to be afraid because the maiden is with a child. We are preparing to celebrate the commemoration of the birth of that same child. Like King Ahab, therefore, we are reminded not to be afraid even if enemies surround us; the battle is the Lord’s. Therefore, as we 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 let’s look forward to better days and years ahead.