Sunday, December 19, 2010

Homily / Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel

People often say to me "I suppose this is your busy time of year". Could be. Though I'd rather be a priest than a postman.

Now the postman really is busy. And most of us are sending many cards and receiving many. Some of them come from people barely remembered - who were "Don and Julia"? We might need to look at the postmark to remember. And sometimes our own cards go astray, because we addresses or names wrong. And if we receive cards with slight inaccuracies in our names, then we feel as if it were meant for someone else. There's a lot in a name.

In todays Gospel two of the names of Jesus are explained to us. The first of course is the most familiar - the name Jesus itself, which is the Greek version of the name Joshua, which means "God saves" or "God will saves us". The second is perhaps less familiar but heard often in Advent - Emmanuel - "God is with us".

Putting these two names together, tells us what this time of year, and what our belief in Christ is all about. He saves us by being with us.

We might reasonably ask the question, why did God come and live amongst us as Jesus. Why did he take flesh? Why did Jesus have to suffer and die for us? Could not God have just acted, just waved his hands like a magic wand and put all sins and sufferings right.

Perhaps. But that would be rather like sending the card to the distant friend or relative who we care about a little, but, well, are not really close to. Its a simple act of courtesy, but it requires little effort.
But God does more than send a card. He comes to visit. And God does more than visit. He comes to dwell amongst us. He becomes one of us, and shares our joys and sorrows, our cares and our concerns. He takes our sins upon himself. And that is how he saves us.

And today the blessed virgin stands before us. Chosen by him to carry him and bear him into the world. She is not some postman who carries a card. She is humanity, she is us - the ones who receive this great gift, this wonderful visitor.

He is Emmanuel, God-with-us. He has come to meet us. He knocks at the door. And we must open and let him in.

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