Bishop Terry LaValley
I think it’s safe to say that most of us have heard, or seen displayed, the phrase: “Jesus is the reason for the season.” This is an especially appropriate reminder of the religious reason for the season instead of the perceived politically correct, albeit, in reality incorrect, concern that we keep Christ out of Christmas. We bend over backwards and cater to the whims of unbelievers (many baptized) and in the process deny the truth.
Yet, despite the truth of the phrase, Jesus is the reason for the season, it does not tell the whole of the story. I am reminded of something I read several years ago: The truth is YOU ARE THE REASON FOR THE SEASON! JESUS IS THE GIFT of the Season! I think this better captures the good news of the Scripture. It is more in harmony with the biblical message.
The angel’s announcement to Mary in today’s Gospel (4th Sunday of Advent (B) 18 December 2011) and the birth of the Christ child at Christmas mean that God is giving us nothing less than his very self and His Name is Jesus. As Jesus will put it later in His ministry, “It has pleased my Father to give YOU the Kingdom.” YOU ARE THE REASON FOR THE SEASON. JESUS IS THE GIFT.
It is what God has to give the world that stands out in today’s readings. In the first reading, King David is settled into his castle. Today he looks around at his accomplishments and sees that there is still one thing left to do. David lives in a fine house. But now God needs a house.
In that First Reading the story turns from anything David can do for God toward the thing God is about to do. Not long into that reading, there is a solemn declaration: “Now therefore…thus says the Lord,” “It is as though God says to David, “Enough about your gift to me. Let me tell you about my gift to you.” Imagine the shock this would be for the greatest king that ever ruled Israel. Imagine the surprise it would be for any of us who think highly of ourselves because of our education, our intellect, our goodness, our generosity, or our family heritage. The Lord looks over David’s blueprints the same way God no doubt looks at our well-laid plans and says, “It’s a nice gift, really. I appreciate the thought. But I’ve got a gift for you that you cannot begin to imagine.”
The Lord says, “You were nobody until I came along. I am the one who made you great.” You see, all along David thought of himself as an achiever: ambitious, powerful and good. But David’s life is not meant to be an achiever of things for God. He is meant to be a receiver of gifts from God. The first reading ends with the Lord saying to David, “You think you’re going to make me a house. I am going to make you a house.” It’s as though the Lord says, “You are the reason for this season and my house is my gift to you. That house will be established forever.”
The Gospel declares “The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.” In the promised birth of this child, God gives us nothing less than God’s very self and His Name is Jesus. Jesus fulfills the promise God once made to David. At last God chooses a house and it is Mary’s womb. We, along with the whole world, are now on the receiving end of God’s love beyond all our power, all our generosity and all our goodness. We are on the receiving end of God’s love beyond all our sinfulness, brokenness and guilt.
The angel’s announcement about this coming child is not a piece of divine encouragement to give a boost to our own plans and desires. The angel’s announcement declares God’s gift to us, a gift that clears away all the other things we cling to. Today we open up our empty hands long enough to receive God’s gift. It is all meant to focus our vision and our lives on Jesus Christ. You are the reason God is doing this. Jesus is the gift. What a tremendous gift!
We must not give in to pressures to take Christ out of Christmas. We must adore the Gift, Jesus Christ and respect the dignity of every person, the reason for the season.