Fourth Sunday of Advent | Fr. Paul Berghout

Posted on December 16, 2022 View all Gospel Reflection

Fourth Sunday of Advent

There are four annunciations or announcements in our Gospel this Sunday.

1. To all the Marys everwhere—

Mary’s Annunciation— reminds me of an advertising slogan for a shoe company that says, “No great story starts, “it was cold, so I stayed in.”

In classical Greek and Roman mythology every hero’s story really begins when he or she leaves “home.” Of course, you don’t have to physically leave home, rather the message is don’t be afraid of the cold. Take risks. Great things can happen when you step out of your preconceived plans and be open to God’s will.

2. St. Joseph’s angelic announcement came in a dream— Everything is fine until Mary returns from spending three months with her cousin Elizabeth and he discovers that she is pregnant.

St. Joseph had no less than three recorded dreams in Scripture. In the Bible, dreams are most often portrayed as a vehicle of divine revelation. How do we experience angelic guidance in our dreams, resting in the Lord? The text says that Joseph awoke and did as the angel told him and took Mary his wife into his home, immediately.

Joseph was righteous, and preferred to keep the scandal out of the papers, and save everybody any further embarrassment. God’s plans and Joseph’s initially did not seem to coincide. Do I have preconceived ideas for my own life that aren’t matching God’s plan for me? Am I able to adjust and thrive? What in our lives appeared to be a disaster but was meaningful from God’s perspective when we view it in hindsight with the eyes of faith?

3. to all the Pauls everywhere- In our Second Reading, St. Paul’s divinely inspired, self-announcement is his very first description of himself, using the metaphor of a slave saying, I “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus.” Slavery was widespread in the Roman Empire. Estimates claim three slaves to one free citizen. In using the word slave for himself he desires to stress his total submission and commitment to Christ Jesus, who is Kyrios, “master,” but also “Lord.”  (source: Anchor Bible Commentary, Romans).

3. Ahaz had an inverted annunciation or an upside announcement, at the words of the Prophet Isaiah–

He is being invited to test God, to prove God true, but he himself is being tested by God’s word. Actually, Ahaz is mocking God by speaking about God but who had no intention to obey his plan and will and Ahaz never made a pretense to do so.

Actually, Isaiah is addressing not just Ahaz but the entire nation’s unbelief as it has frequently been noted that Isaiah’s “hear now” in Isaiah 7:13 is a command in the plural. It was addressed to all the Ahazes everywhere whom receive God’s will through the prophetic word offered, but it is declined, but still given anyway. God helps us in his mercy, we have been worldly and rebellious, seeking our way.

So God takes matters into his own hands and says this will be the sign: “the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14).

The Christian church for centuries has asserted that the fulfillment of this prediction is recorded in Matthew 1:22-23 and fulfilled in Mary, a virgin.

How do we respond to God’s revealed will? In our sources of encouragement, what are wells of inspiration, and models of imitation, and how does Scripture influence us that we hear at Mass?