Looking back at Church history, we note that Easter was celebrated by the Church earlier, in reference to St. Irenaeus (c.130-c.200) writing to Pope St. Victor I, while commenting on the celebration of Easter and the differences between practices in the East and the West (Eusebius, History of the Church, V, 24). On the other hand, while it is unknown when exactly the period of preparation for Christmas that is now called Advent first began – it was certainly in existence from about 480. As we can see, the development of the Church naturally would begin with the Easter experience, when our Lord and Savior rose from the dead. God’s style of organizing our Faith is different from how we would do it. The story of the Resurrection would be the basis after which the witnessing by the disciples in their missionary journeys would push Christianity out of Jerusalem and into the ends of the earth.
As the Church organized the narrative, St. Paul’s exhortation would fit the needed opening statements, as in the Second Reading:
‘Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.’ (Rom. 1: 1-4).
Through these and the succeeding verses, St. Paul wanted to establish the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God Incarnate.
To assure us of strength and staying power, the Lord wants to make known His presence felt in our lives. The First Reading takes us to the Prophet Isaiah, who spoke about the Lord, exhorting Ahaz to ask for a sign from God. However, just like us sometimes, we are stubborn and have our own back-up options in case God won’t answer back. But God is faithful, He will keep His promise.
When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, he acted in accordance with the cultural norms and expectations of society then: he decided to divorce her. But he was compassionate, deciding to divorce her quietly so as not to create a scandal, even though he must have been hurt, deeply hurt. When he awoke, Joseph’s faith must have enabled him to grasp that the meaning of Emmanuel – God is with us – applied to him and Mary as well. Yet, he may not have fully understood the significance of Mary’s child, and what the angel told him, ‘For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her’. (Mt. 1: 20) But he knew that God was with them, and that was what mattered the most. Similarly, when in similar confusing situations, we just take on God’s promise that He will be there. Knowing Him being present in our day-to-day lives is enough.
Joseph was living quietly until he was put in a challenging and a radically uncomfortable situation. He had already decided on a course of action to take but a dream changed it. It may have been probably the best option to take, but in matters of faith and God, making decisions is about trusting Him completely.
As leaders in our families and in our jobs, we use reason and logic borne out of our God-given talents and skills. However, there are times wherein we experience discomfort even when there seems to be a good basis for making a particular choice. Joseph may have experienced this while pondering on what to do. He was pushed to the limit, but he passed with flying colors: Joseph trusted God without a doubt. Thus God entrusted him with the two most important persons in all of Christianity.
While in Church waiting for my turn at Confession, two ladies were talking about their plans of completing the Misa de Gallo. They both said that they’ll complete it, just like in Advents previous. However, the other lady said that on Christmas, she’ll not be able to hear Mass, as she’ll be travelling to her home province on the day itself.
Sad. While she’ll be able to complete the nine-day Masses, she’ll be missing the bigger celebration: Christmas Eve Mass itself! Remember, we too may be so anxious about many things, and risk losing Jesus out of the crib: He is the reason for Advent and Christmas!
As we go through the remaining days of Advent, may we not miss our own preparations to meet the Lord. Unlike the TV stations that even scarcely mention Advent, let us undergo the process of preparing wholeheartedly for His coming.
‘Let the Lord enter; He is King of Glory.’ (Ps. 24: 7c, 10)